Talk of the Week

Your Editor, Jamari Mohtar, is analysing a simple, random survey ala Gallup poll done by his team on more than 45 Johoreans residing in Johor on which party they would like to see winning the upcoming Johor state election.

  • >Umno which rules Johor in a tenuous majority must be very confident of winning BIG in the forthcoming Johor state election for it to dissolve the state legislative assembly on Jan 22, although it was not necessary to do so to ensure the longevity of Umno’s rule in the state till the 15th General Election (GE15).
  • Many analysts said it was the momentum of BN’s landslide victory in the Melaka state election and the weak performance of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) in both the Melaka and Sarawak state elections that have generated this confidence.
  • Others said it is the bad blood that exists between Umno and Bersatu that has made Umno to go for the jugular, sensing the timing is right to make Bersatu irrelevant in Johor and thus, embarrassing former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who is leading Bersatu and is a Johorean.
  • Another opinion put forth by analysts for this early state election is to pressure the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government led by Umno’s Vice President Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to hold GE 15 sooner rather than later this year or next year.
  • That’s how confident or rather overconfident, as some would allege, Umno is in winning another landslide victory in a state election.
  • Now, there are two strands of thought on why Umno wants to pressure PM Ismail Sabri to hold GE 15 earlier. One is to be the number 1 party in the government just like in the good old days it enjoyed for 60 years where it didn’t have to share power in a coalition that involves the likes of PN or PH, before the latter trounced it in GE 14.
  • The other strand of thought is the power struggle within Umno between the court cluster and the minister cluster. As it is, the minister cluster which includes the PM and Ministers from Umno is in the ascendant at the Federal level.
  • At the state level, particularly in Johor, it is the court cluster and their supporters that seem to be in the ascendant, especially when the landslide victory of Umno in the Melaka state election was led by former prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is the leader of the court cluster.
  • What’s more, with the Court of Appeal upholding Najib’s conviction on the SRC International case on Dec 8, and the High Court on Jan 24 ordering Umno President, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to enter his defence on all 47 corruption charges involving millions of ringgit from charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi, it has become more urgent than ever to pressure Ismail Sabri to hold GE15 as soon as possible after a highly anticipated Umno’s strong, formidable and convincing win in the Johor state election.
  • The idea behind this, according to some analysts, is once in power, the court cluster having played a major role in Umno’s victory will then make their move to free their accused/convicted members from the “clutches” of the court.
  • Interference in court affairs was revealed recently in news reports when last September, Muhyiddin was served a letter of demand by Najib’s lawyers, urging him to explain whether he was behind “rumours” that Najib had asked him to interfere in his court cases.
  • This came days after Muhyiddin spoke of attempts by a group of politicians to get him to interfere in corruption cases involving them.
  • The Bersatu president made the claim last August, at the peak of a campaign to oust him by Najib and Umno leader Ahmad Zahid.
  • Bersatu spokesman Wan Saiful Wan Jan subsequently urged Najib and Zahid to come clean on rumours that they were the individuals meant by Muhyiddin.
  • In his response to the legal notice from Najib’s lawyers, Muhyiddin named “a very senior lawyer” whom he said was being targeted by the convicted former leader.
  • Muhyiddin said he had been approached by Najib as well as through intermediaries with requests that the individual be removed from prosecuting in the on-going corruption cases.
  • “Despite threatening a defamation suit, there was no follow-up action from Najib’s side after the response from Muhyiddin,” a source in Umno who is close to the Najib faction told MalaysiaNow.
  • Meanwhile in October 2020, MalaysiaNow reported Muhyiddin was approached by Zahid in a bid to have his corruption charges dropped.
  • “But he (Zahid) went back disappointed, files in hand,” a source had told MalaysiaNow about the private meeting in March 2020, just days after Muhyiddin was sworn into power.
  • The issue of judicial interference returned to the limelight last week after Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, when asked about Muhyiddin’s claim, said no one had approached her to seek her interference, and insisted that the members of the judiciary would remain independent.
  • PH chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim then urged Muhyiddin to explain his allegations that there had been requests for him to interfere in corruption cases.
  • In his reply sighted by MalaysiaNow, Muhyiddin said the statements he made on alleged attempts to meddle in the judiciary had never named Najib.
  • Instead, he said Najib had identified himself by issuing the legal notice.
  • Muhyiddin, in his reply to Najib’s lawyers, also described the Umno leader as a “convicted criminal”, and given his conviction, he is not entitled to any damages for any alleged harm to his reputation.
  • Meanwhile, Umno’s official line in having an early state election in Johor was centred around the argument a new mandate from the people was necessary as the state government was unstable and could only move based on the “goodwill of the opposition”.
  • An example given by Umno liaision committee chief Dato Hasni Mohammad who was also the Menteri Besar was when the Johor opposition raised negotiations on the District Development Action Committee at the Johor state legislative assembly sitting after the 2022 Johor Budget was tabled in November.
  • “Voting conducted through the negotiations led to a 27-vote tie. The assembly speaker, Suhaizan Kaiat, decided in favour of the government, making the decision 28-27 to break the deadlock,” he said in a statement.
  • Although Umno is aware that Malaysians were still affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and that some were also dealing with the post-flood situation but as a political party, it feels having a stable government was important to ensure that all policies and aid that could benefit the people could be planned effectively.
  • But what happens if the upcoming state election returns Umno with the most seats but still BN/Umno has a tenuous majority. It will be back to full circle again as far as unstable government is concerned, as it is not a GIVEN or a surety that Umno may repeat its landslide victory in Johor as in Melaka.
  • This is also an important lesson for the opposition, which is now making loud noises about holding the unnecessary snap state election, as it has given its undertaking not to “disturb” the stability of the Umno-led state government.
  • When you know you can’t win a negotiation, be realistic and politically savvy enough not to put it to a vote when the government has a tenuous majority.
  • It’s enough that you just argue your case and make your objections known and then leave it to the state government whether it wants to listen to you or not, unless the merit of your views is very clear-cut.
  • Otherwise it is meaningless for you to make noises now because whether you like it or not, you are indeed a contributor in creating an unstable situation, as rightly pointed out by Hasni, that led to the dissolution of the state assembly.
  • It is only when Umno won a landslide victory in the Melaka state election that some people begin to postulate that a convincing win in a state election is a barometer to gauge the party’s expected good performance in GE15.
  • In the past, this barometer used to be federal by-elections, and even then to conclude that a good performance in a GE would happen requires good prior performance in more than two federal by-elections.
  • In the run-up to GE 14, for instance, there were two simultaneous by-elections in 2016 at the federal level – one in Sungai Besar, Selangor and the other in Kuala Kangsar in Perak.
  • Despite the 1MDB issue was used as a fodder in the two by-elections, the two Umno candidates won with a relatively greater majority than their previous deceased incumbents.
  • These results were later confidently used by Umno to mean they could easily won GE14 as it had won many GEs in the past 60 years. But come GE14, Umno/BN was mercilessly trounced by PH.
  • During PH short stint of 22 months, there were 10 by-elections – five at the state level and five at the federal level.
  • While PH won three at the state level, its opposition (BN and PAS) won also three, but at the federal level, leading to the talk which was backed by many empirical studies then that should GE15 be held, BN would win resoundingly because of its victory over PH at the federal by-elections.
  • So after losing three parliamentary by-elections, the writing was already on the wall when the PH government finally collapsed in February 2020.
  • With regards to BN/Umno now, we can’t say with certainty that if GE15 is held today, BN would win convincingly just on the basis of a convincing win in one state election.
  • Umno did not do that well in the Sabah state election and did not participate in the Sarawak state election.
  • So, the most we can say is with that one convincing victory in a state election, BN/Umno has the edge if GE15 is held today. Hence, Umno is itching on to face the Johor state election and GE15 by even considering going solo without any cooperation from other political parties/coalition. 
  • However, having this edge is mistakenly construed by Umno as if it is a GIVEN that BN/Umno is going to win BIG in both the Johor state election and GE15 if the latter is held sooner than either late this year or next year.
  • Moreover, it made the decision to dissolve the assembly without consulting its coalition partners in the government.
  • And when this non-consultation was brought up by coalition partners, Umno arrogantly replied the law doesn’t require the party to consult with anyone when it comes to dissolving the Assembly, making its coalition partners sound like a “sore loser” for raising it.
  • Umno seems to have forgotten its fall from power in 2018 was because of its arrogance – real or perceived – in ruling the country. This was even admitted by senior Umno leaders when discussing why it lost GE14.
  • True, the law doesn’t require Umno to consult its coalition partners in dissolving the Assembly but consultation is never meant to deprive Umno as the party that leads the state government from making that final decision.
  • Consultation is meant for Umno to listen what coalition partners have to say on the issue, with the final decision still in its hand.
  • This is one of the many feedbacks your editor received from Malaysians (not necessarily Johoreans) on Umno’s arrogance in not consulting its coalition partners to dissolve the Assembly.
  • Some opine that since Umno is a Malay-Muslim party, it should not turn its back on the value of consultation, which Islam has put on a high pedestal.
  • Others commented emotionally that this could result in the loss of barakah (blessings of Allah) in the form of Umno losing badly in both the Johor state election and GE15.
Read more on the Johor state election and interference in court cases:
  • In the field of Strategic Foresight, the theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.
  • Strategic Foresight, also known as Futures Studies, is a discipline organizations use to gather and process information about their future operating environment. This information can include, for example, trends and developments in their political, economic, social, technological, and legal environments.
  • Black swan event is a term based on an ancient saying that presumed black swans did not exist – a saying that became reinterpreted to teach a different lesson after black swans were discovered in the wild.
  • Developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the theory tries to explain:
    • The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.
    • The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
    • The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event’s massive role in historical affairs.
  • Hence, black swan events are those low probabilities, high impact surprises that may be so unlikely to happen that you discount the very possibility, but they could happen and if they did you would be sunk.
  • Since then, two more surprises were added to the list:
    • Blind spots are surprises in places where you’re not looking. These are created around our assumptions and around our perceptual filters, i.e. how we unconsciously ignore some signals around us and pick up on others. We all have blind spots; the point is to keep looking for them.
    • Wildcards are random events that you could not be expected to have anticipated. They are scenarios we can imagine, but have a very low probability of occurring. They are different from a black swan event because the latter isn’t even on the radar, as there’s no precedent.
  • All three of these produce surprises for us, frustrating our attempts at precise anticipation of the future and disrupting our plans. Ultimately, we have to recognize that surprises – good and bad – are an inescapable fact of life.
  • In the case of the Johor state election, the blind spots events are the probability of the spread of the Omicron variant and the possibility of the second wave of the worst flood happening, as we are still in the Northeast Monsoon season.
  • Mitigation efforts for the spread of Omicron can be done by tightening SOPs during nomination day, campaigning and polling day, and all kinds of preparedness put in place to prevent the worst consequences of the worst flood.
  • But if the people find themselves in a situation of extreme hardship in coping with these mitigation efforts and worse, if the blind spots events occur while in the midst of campaigning, these events will translate into heavy losses for Umno/BN.
  • One wildcard event that your editor could think of is if Bersatu proceeds with its intention to gain the Malay vote while predicting that Chinese votes would be split between BN (MCA) and PH (DAP).
  • This tactic could position Bersatu as a strong challenger against the BN in the next general election, especially in rural and semi-rural Malay-majority seats where BN is represented by MCA instead of Umno.
  • It has been tried during the Melaka state election in Bemban with success when PN made an audacious move by contesting under the ticket of a Malay-based party (Bersatu) despite having the option to field its multi-racial partner Gerakan.
  • Bersatu’s decision to field a Malay candidate enabled PN to attain a razor-thin majority of 328 votes ahead of the MCA.
  • This is significant since Chinese MPs representing MCA or DAP have always won the seat, despite ethnic Malays constituting 60% of Bemban’s electorate.
  • However, the main wildcard event is obviously the Undi18 which set the minimum voting age to 18 instead of 21 with the Johor state elections being the first to experience this huge voting bloc.
  • Each of the 56 constituencies would see an increase of at least 20% to 25% of voters, and there is no way the pattern of this youthful vote could be known in advance.
  • Youth being youth, in politics the majority of them would either exhibit an anti-establishment stance or an apathetic stance – both stances a minus point to a landslide victory for Umno/BN.
  • In fact, former chief justice, Abdul Hamid Mohamad has called for Ahmad Zahid and Najib Razak to step down as Umno president and BN adviser, respectively, if the party intends to shed the taint of corruption that has been linked to these two leaders.
  • He painted a scenario of the return of a PH government in Johor, if Umno/BN fail to address this matter, since words like “corruption”, “abuse of power” and “integrity” will influence young voters.
  • This would entail a black swan event because PH is not expected to win because of its poor performance in the Sabah, Melaka and Sarawak state elections.
  • This black swan event is getting traction when a prominent member of Amanah has urged PH to widen its scope of cooperation for the Johor election by including PN in its list of allies, in a sign that the opposition coalition may again be staring at defeat in the upcoming Johor polls.
  • Mazlan Aliman, a popular former social activist from PAS who joined Amanah in its early days, warned that if PH decided to go to the polls in its current shape, it would again face defeat similar to the recent Melaka election.
  • He also said there was a danger that Umno’s victory in Johor could see the return of “kleptocrats” that would pave its way for GE15 and its goal of winning a two-thirds majority in Parliament in order to realise its agenda.
  • “Do PH and the public at large wish to return to a kleptocratic episode as was the case before?” asked Mazlan, adding that cooperation with Bersatu and PAS would create “the biggest coalition”.
  • At the beginning of the newsletter I mentioned about a simple random survey ala Gallup poll on some Johoreans residing in Johor to get their view on the Johor state election.
  • Out of 60 people that we called via phone with just a simple question of which party/coalition do you want to see winning the election with no additional or supplementary questions asked, 47 people responded.
  • And …. drum roll … here’s the result:

Blessings and mercy for all

  • When tragedy struck, the sole solace is to see how it brings the best in us together to help the victims.
  • There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
  • For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others.
  • The response of Malaysians in helping the flood victims is just incredible and praiseworthy – from donation drives, to providing shelter, and rescuing people including a cat from the rising water.<
  • There’s even one NGO catering assistance specially for flood victims who have disabled children.
  • Blessed are those who help others in extraordinary time for they are the embodiment of humanity at its best!
For more on these helping angels:

Let’s Talk Op-Ed

Let’s Talk! PRESENTS: Umno seems to be very confident of winning BIG in the upcoming Johor state election when it made the decision to dissolve the state assembly earlier than its full term. But has it really taken into account all the surprises that may just frustrate or disrupt its plan to win BIG? JAMARI MOHTAR discusses the possible surprises that are in store for Umno.

Umno which rules Johor in a tenuous majority must be very confident of winning BIG in the forthcoming Johor state election for it to dissolve the state legislative assembly on Jan 22.
    Many analysts said it was the momentum of BN’s landslide victory in the Melaka state election and the weak performance of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) in both the Melaka and Sarawak state elections that have generated this confidence.
      Others said it is the bad blood that exists between Umno and Bersatu that has made Umno to go for the jugular, sensing the timing is right to make Bersatu irrelevant in Johor and thus, embarrassing former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who is leading Bersatu and is a Johorean.
        Another opinion put forth by analysts for this early state election is to pressure the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government led by Umno’s Vice President Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to hold the 15th General Election (GE15) sooner rather than later this year or next year.
          What’s more, with the Court of Appeal upholding Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s conviction on the SRC case on Dec 8, and the High Court on Jan 24 ordering Umno president, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to enter his defence on all 47 corruption charges involving millions of ringgit from charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi, it has become more urgent than ever to pressure the PM to hold GE15 as soon as possible after a highly anticipated Umno’s strong, formidable and convincing win in the Johor state election.
            It is only when Umno won a landslide victory in the Melaka state election that some people begin to postulate a convincing win in a state election is a barometer to gauge the party’s expected good performance in GE15.
              In the past, this barometer used to be federal by-elections, and even then to conclude that a good performance in a GE would happen requires good prior performance in more than two federal by-elections.
                In the run-up to GE 14, for instance, there were two simultaneous by-elections in 2016 at the federal level – one in Sungai Besar, Selangor and the other in Kuala Kangsar in Perak.
                  Despite the 1MDB issue was used as a fodder in the two by-elections, the two Umno candidates won with a relatively greater majority than their previous deceased incumbents.
                    These results were later confidently used by Umno to mean they could easily won GE14 as it had won many GEs in the past 60 years. But come GE14, Umno/BN was mercilessly trounced by PH.
                      During PH short rule, there were 10 by-elections – five at the state level and five at the federal level. While it won three at the state level, its opposition (BN and PAS) won also three, but at the federal level, leading to the talk which was backed by many empirical studies then should GE15 be held, BN would win resoundingly.
                        With regards to BN/Umno now, we can’t say with certainty that if GE15 is held today, BN would win convincingly just on the basis of a convincing win in one state election.
                          Umno did not do that well in the Sabah state election and did not participate in the Sarawak state election. So, the most we can say is with that one convincing victory in a state election, BN/Umno has the edge if GE15 is held today. However, this is mistakenly construed by Umno as if it is a GIVEN that BN/Umno is going to win big in both the Johor state election and GE15.
                            Moreover, it made the decision to dissolve the assembly without consulting its coalition partners. Umno seems to have forgotten its fall from power in 2018 was because of its arrogance – real or perceived – in ruling the country. This was even admitted by senior Umno leaders when discussing why it lost GE14.
                              True, the law doesn’t require Umno to consult its coalition partners but consultation is meant for Umno to listen what coalition partners have to say, with the final decision still in its hand.
                                While some opine that since Umno is a Malay-Muslim party, it should not turn its back on the value of consultation, which Islam has put on a high pedestal, others commented this could result in the loss of barakah (blessings of Allah) in the form of Umno losing badly in both the Johor state election and GE15.
                                  If the upcoming state election returns Umno with the most seats but still with a tenuous majority, it will be back to full circle again as far as unstable government is concerned.
                                    There are three surprises that may just frustrate or disrupt Umno’s plan to win BIG in the Johor state election and GE15 from the perspective of Strategic Foresight – a discipline that gathers and processes information about future operating environment. These are:
                                    • Black swan events with low probabilities, high impact surprises and have no precedent, hence unlikely to happen that you discount the very possibility. But they could happen, and if they did you would be sunk.
                                    • Blind spots surprises in places where you’re not looking because our assumptions and perceptual filters unconsciously ignore some signals around us and pick up on others.
                                    • Wildcards – random events that you could not be expected to have anticipated. These are scenarios we can imagine that have a very low probability of occurring.
                                    In the case of the Johor state election, the blind spots events are the probability of the spread of the Omicron variant and the possibility of the second wave of the worst flood happening.
                                      If the people find themselves in a situation of extreme hardship in coping with mitigation efforts on Omicron and the floods, and worse, if the blind spots events occur while in the midst of campaigning, these will translate into heavy losses for Umno/BN.
                                        One wildcard event is if Bersatu proceeds with its intention to gain the Malay vote while predicting Chinese votes would be split between BN (MCA) and PH (DAP) which was tried during the Melaka state election in Bemban.
                                          PN made an audacious move by contesting under Bersatu despite having the option to field Gerakan, resulting in a razor-thin majority of 328 votes ahead of MCA. This is significant since Chinese MPs representing MCA or DAP have always won the seat, despite ethnic Malays constituting 60% of Bemban’s electorate.
                                            However, the main wildcard event is Undi18 which set the minimum voting age to 18 instead of 21 with the Johor state elections being the first to experience this huge voting bloc. Youth being youth, in politics the majority of them would either exhibit an anti-establishment stance or an apathetic stance – both a minus point to a landslide victory for Umno/BN.
                                              Former chief justice, Abdul Hamid Mohamad has painted a scenario of the return of a PH government in Johor, if Umno/BN fails to shed the taint of corruption linked to Najib and Zahid, since words like “corruption”, “abuse of power” and “integrity” will influence young voters.
                                                This would entail a black swan event because PH is not expected to win. And it is getting traction when a prominent member of Amanah, Mazlan Aliman has urged PH to widen its scope of cooperation for the Johor election by including PN in its list of allies.
                                                  He warned if PH decided to go to the polls in its current shape, it would again face defeat similar to the recent Melaka election, apart from the danger Umno’s victory in Johor could see the return of “kleptocrats” that would pave its way for GE15 and its goal of winning a two-thirds majority in Parliament in order to realise its agenda.
                                                    “Do PH and the public at large wish to return to a kleptocratic episode as was the case before?” asked Mazlan, adding that cooperation with Bersatu and PAS would create “the biggest coalition”.
                                                      Let’s Talk! has conducted a simple random survey ala Gallup poll in which out of 60 Johoreans that were asked via a phone call with just a simple question of which party/coalition they want to see winning the election, 47 people responded.
                                                        The finding is in line with the idea of Umno having the edge in GE15, and the surprises that are in store for Umno during the Johor state election, as shown below.

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