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Malaysia GE2022: More voters travelling home, split Malay votes help Johor swing back to Pakatan Harapan after state elections

MUAR — The state of Johor swung back to a Pakatan Harapan (PH) majority in the latest Malaysian General Election 2022 (GE2022), with the opposition coalition clinching most of the 26 available seats — a reversal of fortunes from the State Elections held in March.

Pakatan Harapan (PH) flags at Ayer Hitam, Johor, on Nov 8, 2022.

Pakatan Harapan (PH) flags at Ayer Hitam, Johor, on Nov 8, 2022.

  • Opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) clinched 14 out of 26 constituencies in the state of Johor
  • This is a swing from the State Elections, where PH only won 12 out of 56 state seats 
  • Experts say that the increased voter turnout, as well as the split Malay vote helped PH to edge out the competition in several key seats
  • However, this also means that many constituencies in Johor are more fragmented than ever 

MUAR — The state of Johor swung back to a Pakatan Harapan (PH) majority in the latest Malaysian general election, with the opposition coalition clinching most of the 26 available seats — a reversal of fortunes from the state elections held in March.

Then, PH won only 12 out of 56 state seats during the state elections, but early Sunday morning (Nov 20) it clinched 14 out of 26 seats. 

Mr Kevin Zhang, senior research officer in the Malaysia Studies Programme at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said that a major factor for the swing in votes is the return of thousands of Malaysian voters living in Singapore, who were not able to return during the March state elections due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions 

He pointed out that in the constituency of Muar, for example, the voter turnout was 77 per cent, compared to the average voter turnout during the state elections, which was just shy of 55 per cent. 

Mr Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman from political party Muda, who is the former Minister of Youth and Sports, won 37.6 per cent of the vote, while Perikatan Nasional's (PN) Abdullah Husin had just 1,345 votes fewer, accounting for a 35 per cent vote share.

This is a slimmer margin than in GE2018, when Mr Syed Saddiq garnered 53 per cent of the votes.

"I think Syed Saddiq won because more outstation voters had returned to Malaysia (to vote)," said Mr Zhang. 

Muda has an electoral pact with PH, which means the parties will not contest in the same constituencies.

MALAY VOTES SPLIT BETWEEN BN AND PN

Experts added that the presence of the newly formed coalition PN also resulted in the splitting of votes from Malays between them and the incumbent Government Barisan Nasional (BN).

"Muhyiddin's idea of a clean, stable and caring Government has gotten a lot more traction now compared to back in March," said Mr Zhang, referring to the PN leader and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.  

While BN had a landslide victory at the state elections, winning 40 out of 56 state, it only managed to clinch nine federal seats on Sunday while PN took control of two seats.

SENSE OF DIVISION IN JOHOR — AND MALAYSIA — STRONGER THAN EVER

Experts said that the results in Johor mirror the results across Malaysia. 

Professor James Chin from the Asian Studies department at the University of Tasmania said that the results are Johor is "consistent with the nationwide trend... of BN not winning that many seats". 

Due to the emergence of a third serious contender in PN, Mr Zhang said that the politics in Johor, and by extension Malaysia, is more fragmented than ever. 

For instance, he noted that a majority of the seats that PH had won — eight out of 14 — saw PH receive less than 50 per cent of the votes. 

He said that the many voters who would have otherwise voted for BN might have split their votes among BN and PN, which allowed PH to win narrowly in several of the seats. 

"If there are so many seats won with fewer than half the votes, then there is unprecedented fragmentation," said Mr Zhang.

"I'm not sure how effective the winning party is in being able to represent the voters." 

Agreeing, Muar resident and businessman Mr Ashari Hairi, 51, said that while he is not happy that Mr Syed Saddiq had won, that he is still waiting to see how he delivers on his promises. 

"We shall see if what he presented in his manifesto will come to fruition... that he didn’t do it to create drama during just for this general elections." 

Businessman Ashari Hairi, 51, poses for a photo at a coffee shop in Muar, Johor, on Nov 20, 2022. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY

RESULTS OF THE HOT SEATS

PAGOH

The elections saw PN leader and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin retain his seat in the constituency of Pagoh for a sixth term, with a resounding win over the two candidates: BN's Razali Ibrahim and PH's Iskandar Shah. 

Mr Muhyiddin took 45.9 per cent of the vote with 10,000 margin over Mr Iskandar.

At about 11pm on Saturday, TODAY saw about 100 PN supporters near a row of shophouses in Pagoh cheering Mr Muhyiddin's victory while waving large flags and wearing PN party t-shirts. 

Younger supporters cheered "father" in Malay  a term of endearment for Mr Muhyiddin. 

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Perikatan Nasional (PN) supporters gather, after PN’s leader Muhyiddin Yassin won the seat in Pagoh, Johor, on Nov 19, 2022. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY

At the sidelines of the celebrations were several older supporters including 53-year-old farmer Samsir Ahman, who has lived in the district for all his life. 

Other than hoping that Mr Muhyiddin continues to develop the small town of Pagoh by building more bridges and buildings, he also hopes that PN will be able to form the next government, and that Mr Muhyiddin can be the Prime Minister again. 

"He has been in politics for about 40 years, so I don’t think we need to question him, whatever his idea is, he’ll definitely do well."  

AYER HITAM

Over at Ayer Hitam, a close fight seemed in the offing, as it had been a tight battle during GE2018, with the incumbent Wee Ka Siong from BN winning by only 303 votes. 

During the election campaign this year, political heavyweights from both BN and PH stopped by the small town to rally around their candidates.  

The result for this GE produced a more comfortable victory for Mr Wee, with an almost 3,000 vote margin. 

Said Mr Wee, who is also acting Transport Minister, to reporters at Ayer Hitam after the results: "I am humbled by the victory that I obtained today, and in fact i must thank my voters for giving me this opportunity to serve this constituency for the fifth consecutive term." 

MUAR

In Muar, incumbent Mr Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman from political party Muda saw his seat closely challenged by PN's Abdullah Husin.

Muda has an electoral pact with PH, which means the parties will not contest in the same constituencies.

Mr Syed Saddiq, who is the former Minister of Youth and Sports, won 37.6 per cent of the vote, while Mr Abdullah had just 1,345 votes fewer, accounting for a 35 per cent vote share.

This is a slimmer margin than in GE2018, when Mr Syed Saddiq garnered 53 per cent of the votes.

Mr Heng Oh Yeah, who owns his own food and beverage business, said that he had voted for him partly because he had during his previous term kept his promise of constructing a new market at his village.

However, he said that his priority for voting Mr Syed Saddiq was ultimately to see PH come to power.

"It's not certain if PH can come into power... but if I bring Syed Saddiq to Parliament, there will be a greater chance," said the 57-year-old.

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Owner of food and beverage business Heng Oh Yeah, 57, poses for a photo in a village at Muar, Johor, on Nov 20, 2022. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY
Visit our Malaysia Elections 2022 page for the latest coverage, updates from TODAY journalists on the ground and more.

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Malaysia Elections 2022 Malaysia Malaysian politics Syed Saddiq Pakatan Harapan

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