Umno’s Normala Abdul Samad (43,834 votes) pipped PKR’s Ahmad Faidhi Saidi (42,899) by 1.08%.
“One of the factors that led to the deterioration of the vote was due to the candidate factor. Compared with the previous candidate, Normala was seen as a weaker candidate,” a BN source told The Malaysian Insight.
Local Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders expect Chinese voters to stay with the opposition because of new issues.
“BN had fallen badly in the past when there had been no 1MDB and other corruption issues,” said Johor PKR chairman Hassan Karim.
Pasir Gudang is among the 40 mixed seats PH hopes to capture in GE14. Besides Pasir Gudang, BN has suffered drops in all the mixed seats it won or contested in GE13.
The Pasir Gudang parliamentary seat has 101,041 voters with 47% Malays, Chinese (38%) and Indians (11%). Based on data from the Election Commission, the number of voters has grown to 121,189 with a similar racial composition.
Johor DAP chairman Liew Chin Tong said PH will form the next federal government if the opposition bloc can win 40 of Umno’s seats with fewer than 8% majority.
At the last elections, BN lost the Johor Jaya state seat to DAP while Permai was won by Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin with a higher majority.
In the 2004 elections, Khaled was the Pasir Gudang MP before moving to Permai.
Who’s the candidate?
PH has not yet finalised the seat negotiations between the four component parties – DAP, Amanah, Bersatu and PKR – in Johor, including Pasir Gudang, which is the target of PKR and Bersatu.
A PH leader, who spoke to The Malaysian Insight on condition of anonymity, said PKR would not be given the Pasir Gudang despite contesting in other elections.
“The allocation of seats is still pending in Johor and the presidential council has finalised the negotiations. There is an overlap between PKR and Bersatu for Pasir Gudang seats and both parties want it but we are confident it will be resolved soon,” the source said.
The Malaysian Insight understands that PKR wants Johor chairman Hassan Karim to contest in Pasir Gudang while Bersatu intends to field division chief Hashim Yusoff.
On the BN side, there is talk that Khaled could return to Pasir Gudang.
“There is talk about fielding Khaled again but the decision is up to the leadership. On the ground, we find that Khaled is popular with voters from the different races despite moving on to become the menteri besar.
“Khaled is loved by the people and is friendly and easy. If it is up to voters, they want Khaled to become a member of parliament,” said another BN source.
Khaled became the Pasir Gudang MP when the seat was created after the 2003 re-delineation exercise. Prior to that, he was the Johor Baru MP for three terms – 1990, 1995 and 1999.
But some PH leaders believe BN’s good record in Pasir Gudang will come to an end this time.
“GE13 saw people rejecting BN and with the economic burdens faced by voters now, we are confident of winning in Pasir Gudang.
“But we must not be overconfident and must be fully prepared 100 days before the elections,” Hassan said.
Malay votes decisive
Another local PH leader said the urban poverty issue among the Malays would also be a factor.
“Pasir Gudang is a town but incomes are not very high. Added with the goods and services tax (GST) issue, it has affected the local economy,” said Pasir Gudang Bersatu Youth chief Mohd Najib Sayuti.
He said with the support of the Chinese still strong with the opposition, the Malay vote will determine who wins in Pasir Gudang.
The land scandal in Johor earlier last year which saw a state executive councillor charged in court, as well as the latest scandal involving Felda could turn the Malay vote in the opposition’s favour.
“The Malay vote will be a decisive factor, especially among fence-sitters and Umno voters who are disenchanted with Umno’s leadership.
“Although Pasir Gudang does not contain any Felda settlement, a majority of the voters are settlers or second-generation Felda settlers.
“And although Khaled did well in Pasir Gudang, many Umno leaders have left to join Bersatu,” he added.
MCA remains optimistic
Johor Jaya assemblyman Liow Cai Tung said the economic slowdown in the past 10 years has affected voters’ confidence in BN.
“This was evident in GE12. Many people from Pasir Gudang have had to work in Singapore because of the higher currency there,” Liow told The Malaysian Insight.
MCA Pasir Gudang, however, thinks otherwise and is confident of wresting back Johor Jaya from DAP.
Despite losing in the last elections, Tan Cher Puk, who is still head of MCA Pasir Gudang, said it did not stop the party from continuing to provide services to the community.
“In these 4½ years, people can see who is really committed to helping them.
“BN in Pasir Gudang, under the leadership of Khaled is a strong team. Before this, MCA used to work alone while Umno worked separately,” Tan told The Malaysian Insight.
BN Pasir Gudang also holds frequent meetings to discuss issues affecting local voters and to find solutions together, he said.
Tan said BN is counting on Malay voters rejecting PH candidates as it was cooperating with DAP.
Chinese voters will also reject the opposition after DAP decided to work with former nemesis, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who currently chairs PH and Bersatu, he said.
MCA is expected to field Tan in the Johor Jaya state seat again. MCA president Liow Tiong Lai said Tan is the most qualified candidate for his dedication in the constituency.
“Even though he lost in GE13, Tan continues to provide services to resolve the various local issues and I am impressed by his commitment to understanding local issues in the Johor Jaya area,” said Liow recently. – January 3, 2018.