Malaysia’s opposition in all-out bid for Johor

  • Johor has emerged as a key battleground for Malaysia’s political future, with opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH) making an all-out bid for the Barisan Nasional (BN) stronghold of Ayer Hitam, where it will field – and risk the defeat of – its rising star Liew Chin Tong.
  • Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who lent his star power to the 52nd anniversary bash of Mr Liew’s Democratic Action Party (DAP) on 18 Mar 18, said: “Pakatan Harapan puts people first. We don’t put ourselves first. If we did, we’d field Liew Chin Tong in a safe place. But because we need progress, and a strong candidate, we put him here.”
  • Ayer Hitam might well be 2018’s Gelang Patah, he later told reporters, referring to the BN fortress that fell to the opposition in the 2013 polls and saw it make inroads in Johor.
  • The state was the site of two high-powered rallies on 18 Mar 18, with the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) defending the BN’s track record over the years in Johor Jaya, while the DAP and its PH allies agitated for change in Ayer Hitam, where the opposition alliance in Jan 18 launched a new election centre.
  • A win in Ayer Hitam will likely spur a wave of PH victories in Johor and pave the way for an opposition government to seize Putrajaya, said Tun Dr Mahathir and his alliance members in upbeat speeches.
  • But the MCA is unfazed. Its leaders declared at a rally in Johor Jaya that they were confident of defending Ayer Hitam and the state of Johor, which they said has benefited from the ruling coalition’s clear plans to drive transformation and the economy.
  • And PH leaders too acknowledged that Ayer Hitam may prove a harder courtship than Gelang Patah.
  • Mr Liew will find a formidable opponent in Ayer Hitam’s three-time MP Wee Ka Siong, who is deputy president of the MCA as well as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. The former deputy education minister has been associated with the development of Chinese-medium schools, a concern of many Chinese voters. While Dr Wee’s vote share has dwindled, he still won by about 7,000 votes in the 2013 polls.
  • Dr Mahathir said Mr Liew was placed in a tough area because PH is confident that the people will “choose what’s best for them”. To a cheering crowd, he roared: “And what’s best for the people of Ayer Hitam is Liew Chin Tong.”

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