Weekly Highlights

Every single vote counts in Johor

Every vote counts in PRN (Pilihan Raya Negeri) Johor as there is no clear-cut front runner

There are some UMNO leaders who have been publicly declaring that this upcoming Johor state elections is a “done deal” in that Barisan Nasional (BN) will easily win control of the state government and even stands a good chance of winning more than 37 out of 56 seats (or more than 2/3rds of the state legislature or DUN). According to these leaders, a repeat of the results in Melaka is very likely.

This type of overconfidence on the part of BN is misplaced for a few reasons. Firstly, the situation after GE14 in Johor was very different from Melaka. In Melaka, Pakatan Harapan (PH) only enjoyed a 2-seat majority (15 vs 13) against the BN in the 28-seat state assembly. In Johor, PH enjoyed a comfortable 17-seat majority (37 vs 19) against the BN in the 56-seat state assembly.

Furthermore, the % of seats which were won by PH by more than 55% of the vote was much higher in Johor than in Melaka (5 seats or 17.9% in Melaka compared to 21 seats or 37.5% in Johor) (See Table 1 below). In addition, many of the seats which PH won with comfortable majorities were either non-Malay majority seats or Malay majority seats with a significant % of non-Malay voters. Even with a reduced turnout among non-Malay voters, it won’t be as easy for BN to win back a significant number of these “PH Strong” seats.

Table 1: Comparison of GE14 Results for Melaka and Johor State Seats

BN Strong1 (3.6%)7 (12.5%)
BN Marginal4 (14.3%)6 (10.7%)
BN Weak8 (28.6%)6 (10.7%)
BN Total13 (46.4%)19 (33.9%)
PH Strong5 (17.9%)21 (37.5%)
PH Marginal4 (14.3%)9 (16.1%)
PH Weak6 (21.4%)6 (10.7%)
PH Total15 (53.6%)36 (64.3%)
PASNONE1 (1.8%)
TOTAL Seats28 (100.0%)56 (100.0%)

Source: GE14 results for Melaka and Johor

At the same time, BN has to deal with a new challenge in the Johor state elections which it did not have to face in Melaka – namely the huge increase in the number of voters due to Undi 18 and automatic voter registration. Specifically, the addition of approximately 780k voters representing a 42% increase in the 1.8 million voters from GE14 in the Johor electoral roll. Many of these voters are not aligned to any party and as such, the BN cannot make a confident claim that it can easily win a majority of these mostly young and first-time voters.

May be an image of 3 people and people sitting
Having spent some time campaigning in the JB area over the past week, it is clear that the economy here is still very much affected by the border closure with Singapore.

Many shops are still closed or up for rental and the number of customers in shops which are open are probably 30% of total capacity at most. I am sure that other areas in Johor are similarly affected but perhaps not as much as JB. Some of the negative backlash from the poor COVID19 management either at the federal or at the state level will fall somewhat on the BN as well as the PN, though the exact attribution of blame for which coalition will depend on the area in question and also the performance of the elected representative in those areas, whether from BN, PN or PH. What this means is that the “mass exodus” of voters back to the BN is not likely.

Projecting PRN Johor results – Assumptions & Caveats

It is not easy to come up with a comprehensive model to predict the likely seat by seat outcomes for the Johor state elections because there are many variables that are hard to estimate such as the turnout rate for the existing and also new voters. Nonetheless, I will try to project the PRN Johor results by using certain assumptions about the turnout and support by ethnic group for the 3 major coalitions among existing voters and also first-time voters (Undi 18 and automatic voter registration).

Table 2: Assumptions on changes in turnout and support by ethnic group (PRN Johor vs GE14) among GE14 voters

I assume that the turnout rate among the Malay, Chinese and Indian voters will fall by 15%, 30% and 40% respectively. The Chinese voter turnout rate will experience a larger fall compared to the Malay voters because more of them are working in Singapore currently and are not likely to come back to vote. Some of the Indian voters are working in Singapore but many others may also feel disenfranchised and disappointed with the political process, more so than the other voters.

I assume that the Malay, Chinese and Indian support for Pakatan Harapan will fall by 15%, 10% and 15% respectively.

The fall in the Malay support is due to Perikatan Nasional (PN) (specifically Muhyiddin’s influence in Johor) taking away Malay support from PH.

From the election results in Melaka, we can see that the loss in Malay support experienced by PH largely went to PN instead of UMNO and we can assume the same trend in Johor. We did not observe a big swing in the Chinese support for PH in Melaka among the Chinese voters who turned out to vote and despite the rhetoric of MCA to say that Chinese voters are coming back to the BN in droves, I don’t think this is likely. The Indian vote swing back to BN especially among in some of the areas with a larger % of Indians in the B40 community is likely because of the use of traditional BN strategies during elections but it will not be to the pre-GE14 levels that perhaps BN is expecting.

Table 3: Assumptions on Turnout and Support by Ethnic Group among new voters

Turnout among new votersMalayChineseIndianOthers
Ethnic Support among New VotersMalayChineseIndianOthers

For the first time voters numbering almost 780k, I assume that voter turnout will be the highest among the Malays (60%) followed by the Chinese (50%) followed by the Indian and Other voters (40%). Among these group of first-time voters, BN cannot assume that it will win more than 50% of their votes, especially and including the Malay voters. No doubt, I have heard that BN is running a good ground game in organizing futsal and badminton competitions and even making a foray into e-sports to attract the youth vote. But PH also has a good social media campaign going and together with MUDA’s appeal and outreach among the young, support among the new voters will likely be split among the three coalitions.

I assume that PH will get approximately 25% of the Malay vote (especially in the urban areas) and also win 85% of the Chinese and 70% of the Indian first-time voters. BN will win 40% of the Malay vote, 25% of the Indian vote and only 10% of the Chinese vote. PN will make a strong push for the Malay vote against BN (especially in the semi-rural and rural areas) by capturing 35% of the Malay vote but will find it hard to win even 5% of the Chinese and Indian vote.

I want to note a few BIG CAVEATS about my assumptions:

(i) They do not take into account variations from seat to seat. For some seats, PH’s vote share among the Malay voters may be higher because of the good service record of PH incumbents especially over the last 2 years during the pandemic.

(ii) They do not take into account specific areas where certain coalitions may be stronger because of local leadership factors e.g. PN is likely to make a strong showing in the two state seats of N7 Bukit Kepong and N8 Bukit Pasir, both of which are located in the parliamentary constituency of the former Prime Minister, Muhyiddin, namely Pagoh. There will be a few other areas where local PN / Bersatu leadership will have a much stronger showing especially among the Malay voters compared to the state-wide average.

(iii) I assume that the influence of PEJUANG and WARISAN will be relatively limited especially in their ability to take away significant vote share from PH or PN.

(iv) I assume that in seats where MUDA is contesting, they will get the same level of estimated support as PH (with the exception of Larkin where both PKR and MUDA are contesting)

Projected Results

With these assumptions and caveats in mind, what are my projected results for PRN Johor? My estimates show that BN will win 27 seats (2 short of a bare majority), PH will win 22 seats, PN will win 1 seat and 6 seats are too close to call. (Of course, some of the PH seats may end up as PN seats if the Malay swing to the PN is significant enough).

What this means is that the contest is still too close to call and voter turnout will end up determining the final outcome of the Johor state elections. Which means that “EVERY VOTE COUNTS” in the fight to determine the next government of Johor and perhaps the future of Malaysian politics in the next 3 to 12 months.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming

MP for Bangi

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