This time around, the Opposition is hoping for the winds of change to blow and is again trumpeting the prospect of winning the state.
Pakatan Harapan is aiming to win enough state seats to gain a simple majority in the 56-member state assembly, where it currently has 16. It is also eyeing 10 more parliamentary seats to add to its current six.
The Opposition is working hard to move some of its “heavyweights” from Selangor and Penang to Johor.
However, political observers are quick to note that it would be a big disaster for Pakatan to send all the big guns into Johor only for them to be defeated
Pakatan is expected to hold a big gathering in Pasir Gudang on Friday to drum up support.
The Mentri Besar has set up a KPI system for state excos and government-linked companies and has drawn up plans based on the needs of the people through the Suara Hati Johor project.
With few local issues to be exploited against the state government under Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, it will be a daunting task for the Opposition to take over Johor.
The best scenario is that the Opposition wins up to five more state seats while the worst case sees it losing as many as that.
In the event Barisan is returned to power in Johor, it will be a challenge to retain its two-thirds majority in the state assembly.
As for the parliamentary seats, the hot seats for both Barisan and Pakatan will be the ones won with slim majorities of fewer than 2,000 votes in the 2013 polls.
Among them are Pasir Gudang, Tebrau, Segamat, Labis, Muar and Ledang, all under Barisan, and Batu Pahat, held by PKR.
Observers note that the current Chinese sentiment in Johor is somewhat cooler than in 2013.
“We will not be surprised if the voter turnout in GE14 drops from 89.9% five years ago to 75% or 78%, similar to 2008.
“If the Opposition wants to win more seats, it needs a wave from Malay voters. At least a 5% to 10% swing in all seats, and higher in rural areas,” said one observer.
Pakatan candidates, especially from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, have a daunting task in delivering the Malay votes as the party is leading the charge in Johor by contesting the lion’s share of seats, namely 18 state and 10 parliamentary seats.
“So far, the Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin factor is only felt in the north around Muar, Pagoh and Ledang,” said another observer. Muhyiddin is Pribumi’s president.
Pakatan is also targeting 73 Felda settlements which contribute votes to at least 15 parliamentary seats in Johor, a huge voting block for Barisan.
“The Opposition’s message to the settlers is simple: look at Felda Global Ventures shares. Its IPO price was RM4.55 and now it’s RM1.70. It is one of the worst-performing plantation stocks on Bursa Malaysia,” an observer noted.
The recently-gazetted electoral redelineation will be another important factor.
At least 19 out of the 26 parliamentary constituencies have had their boundaries changed, as well as 34 out of the 56 state seats.
Among the Pakatan seats affected are Pekan Nenas, Batu Pahat, Perling, Johor Jaya and Puteri Wangsa while Barisan appears to have received a boost in seats like Pulai, Muar, Mahkota and Paloh.
The observers predict that PAS’ aim of becoming a third force will fizzle out.
While they agree that PAS has a strong machinery, they say many of its supporters who stay in Johor and work in Singapore will head back to vote in their home states of Kelantan and Terengganu.
Another major factor in the election will be how the Johor palace views and accepts candidates.
Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar is known to speak his mind and does not tolerate racist politicians who sow hatred among the people.
Among the seats to watch will be Ayer Hitam, which will see Johor DAP chairman Liew Chin Tong taking on MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
Dr Wee is tipped to have an advantage over his opponent, as he is quite popular with the voters including the rural ones as he is always around in his constituency.
Another hot seat will be Johor Baru, which incumbent Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad has held since 1978. He is supposed to face off with DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang.
Many big guns from Barisan have already rallied behind Shahrir, asking their members to defend him at all costs because Johor Baru is one of Umno’s only urban mixed seats with almost 100,000 voters.
However, a political observer downplayed this supposed showdown as pre-election drum-beating, saying that PKR is planning to field National Oversight and Whistleblowers executive director Akmal Nasir in Johor Baru.
Mentri Besar Khaled is expected to contest both the parliamentary seat of Pasir Gudang as well as the Permas state seat.
He is expected to face off against Johor PKR chief Hasan Karim in Pasir Gudang, and former Johor civil service officer Dr Hashim Yusoff in Permas.
In Segamat, MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam is expected to be challenged by PKR’s Datuk Seri Dr Edmund Santhara, the former Masterskill Education Group Bhd CEO.
Another hot seat will be Pagoh, where Muhyiddin will face his former protege, Pagoh Umno acting chief Ismail Mohamed.
Muhyiddin is expected to be contesting a state seat as well, most likely Gambir, which is held by Johor MIC chief Datuk M. Asojan.
Fresh faces in Barisan’s state line-up include Institut Integriti Kepimpinan dan Latihan Semangat Dato’ Onn (Iklas) CEO Johan Arifin Mohd Ropi for the Larkin state seat and Gelang Patah Umno division chief Khairi A. Malik who will be fielded in the Kota Iskandar state seat.
Others include Johor Entrepreneur Development Centre executive director Hahasrin Hashim, who is also Johor Umno Youth chief, in the Panti state seat; and Wanita MCA vice-chairman Wong You Fong in the Perling state seat.
Former Pekan Nenas assemblyman Tang Nai Soon, the state MCA vice-chairman, is expected to run in the Kulai parliamentary constituency.