Johor Umno on shaky ground, says UUM academic

The Johorean spirit could have been slighted by the seemingly unjust way Muhyiddin Yassin is treated by Umno, says Jamarul Zaman Yusoff.


PETALING JAYA: A political analyst sees Umno’s current position in Johor as shakier than it has ever been and attributes this to the emergence of PPBM as an opposition party.

Noting that PPBM is an Umno splinter and one of its founders is Johorean Muhyiddin Yassin, Kamarul Zaman Yusoff of Universiti Utara Malaysia recalled a similar situation about three decades ago, when Umno lost Kelantan to PAS.

In 1988, Kelantan prince and Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah formed Semangat 46, a party made up mostly of former Umno members who were opposed to its then president, Mahathir Mohamad.

While Semangat did not perform well in the 1990 election, its cooperation with PAS is generally cited as the reason for Umno’s loss of Kelantan.

“Umno may face the same fate in Johor with former Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin now being PPBM president,” Kamarul said.

“He is a former deputy prime minister and was Johor’s menteri besar for many years. I am sure a lot of Johoreans must feel indebted to him for various reasons.

“Moreover, there’s that Johorean spirit that could have been slighted by the seemingly unjust way he has been treated by the party leadership. That could move Johoreans to show their displeasure at the polling booths.”

Muhyiddin was Johor menteri besar from 1986 to 1995 and was deputy prime minister from 2009 until July 2015, when he was dropped from Prime Minister Najib Razak’s cabinet for speaking up on allegations of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds at state-owned IMDB.

A year later, he was sacked from Umno and went on to form PPBM along with Mahathir and several other former Umno figures.

Kamarul said the only consolation for Johor Umno was that, unlike Kelantan Umno in 1990, it still had influential state figures it could rely on. These include Umno vice-president Hishamuddin Hussein, who is a grandson of Umno founder Onn Jaafar.

“However,” he added, “Pakatan Harapan started having Johor in its sights long before PPBM was established. The opposition alliance must have been doing the necessary ground work for some time.

“And with the recent allegation of corruption against menteri besar Khaled Nordin adding to Umno’s numerous problems, such as being blamed for the high cost of living, the party will have a rather hard time convincing some Johoreans to continue supporting it.”

Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub, who hails from Johor, agreed that PPBM had appreciably strengthened Pakatan’s position in the state.

PPBM has appreciably strengthened Pakatan's position in the state, says Salahuddin.
PPBM has appreciably strengthened Pakatan’s position in the state, says Salahuddin.

“Having Umno’s former leaders like Muhyiddin on our side is very important, especially in the eyes of the Malays in Johor,” he told FMT. “I firmly believe in the saying that only diamonds can cut diamonds. PPBM can break Umno’s monopoly in the state. It can take away a big chunk of Umno’s hardcore supporters.

“As long as we can retain the support of the Chinese and Indians who voted for us in the last general election, we should be able to capture Johor.”

Salahuddin, who heads Pakatan’s election operations in Johor, said he had been working at the grassroots level for more than a year and had a strong feeling that the Malays were rejecting Umno. The feeling was stronger now than at any time since he became active in politics 35 years ago, he added.

“We are very optimistic of our chances as we are offering candidates with good records,” he said. “We have the veterans, the young and the professionals.”