From Ibrahim M Ahmad
Amid the noise reverberating up and down the country as votes are being tallied and results announced, Johari Ghani’s success in wresting back the Titiwangsa seat for Barisan Nasional from Pakatan Harapan should not escape unnoticed.
Having won the seat in 2013 by a razor-thin 866-vote majority in a constituency of 55,282 electors, the former second finance minister lost it in 2018 as voters turned on BN for the first time in six decades on the back of the 1MDB fiasco.
With Titiwangsa’s incumbent MP Rina Harun (then PH) defecting to Bersatu-PN in 2020 and moving to contest the Sepang seat at GE15, PH moved one of its heavyweights, three-term Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, to recover the parliamentary seat.
Last night’s results again reflected a stiff fight, with Johari prevailing by a majority of approximately 4,000 plus votes. Given that the number of registered voters has jumped by 46% to 80,889, Johari’s victory is quite remarkable.
In a constituency now boasting of 58,569 Malay voters (72%), the results show that he has managed to swim against the tide of a mass defection of the Malay vote from Umno-BN to rival coalitions PH and Perikatan Nasional.
That achievement is even more astounding given that he has managed to win the seat, and especially the confidence of the Malays, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur itself.
Despite keeping a low-profile as a politician, Johari, a highly successful businessman, has run an impressive campaign.
Taken to task by Khalid for his apparent silence on the use of the Land Acquisition Act 1960 to compulsorily acquire land from affected Kampung Baru residents, Johari turned the tables on his opponent by pointing out how he had established a template for the redevelopment of the city centre’s Malay enclave in 2017.
The project, UDA Legacy, a condominium complex developed by UDA Property, was completed in 2020. The apartments there, which were offered to residents who accepted the redevelopment proposal made to them, currently fetch values of between RM700,000 and RM2.8 million.
Johari also shone in the lead up to the 2023 budget last month.
Appearing on TV3 alongside PH deputy president Rafizi Ramli, Johari’s expert articulation of world and local economic issues impressed a national audience, leading to clips from the show going viral on social media.
Probably the brightest star on a dim night for Umno-BN, Johari will surely be one to watch as the grand old party picks up the pieces of an underwhelming election campaign as it seeks to find answers on how to win back the hearts and minds of the Malay community.
Ibrahim M Ahmad is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.