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Johor sultan agrees to dissolve state assembly, paving the way for polls

Johor sultan agrees to dissolve state assembly, paving the way for polls

Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar signing a document to dissolve the state assembly on Saturday (Jan 22). (Photo: Facebook/Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar)

JOHOR BAHRU: Johor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar has dissolved the state assembly, paving the way for state polls to be held.

In a statement on his Facebook page on Saturday (Jan 22), Sultan Ibrahim said he agreed to sign a letter to dissolve the Johor state assembly "to pave the way for the state election". 

The statement said that the sultan met with Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad at 5pm at the Bukit Serene Palace in Johor Bahru, where he was presented with the dissolution letter for the state assembly. 

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Hasni said that he would seek the consent of the sultan to dissolve the state assembly. 

Mr Hasni was speaking to journalists on Saturday afternoon after a meeting with division heads from his party the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO). 

“I will meet His Majesty (Sultan Ibrahim) at 5pm to brief him on what was discussed at the UMNO meeting,” said Mr Hasni. 

“To discuss that I have consent from the (UMNO) liaison body to hold state elections."

Earlier in the week, Mr Hasni said that he had to be careful and sensitive with regard to the stability of the Johor state government as the state assembly has a slim majority. 

He added that stability in the state government was a prerequisite for some investors and businesses to expand their operations into the southern state. 

Mr Hasni said: “I’ve said that on the need to hold the Johor state elections, I can’t reject it. I have to research and look at the matter closely. The voices from various parties cannot fall on deaf ears.” 

The recent demise of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) member Osman Sapian, the Kempas assemblyman, had set tongues wagging of an impending state election. 

Bersatu was one of the key components of the coalition which rules the Johor state government, alongside the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.  

His death meant that the ruling coalition held a slim one-seat majority, with 28 out of the 56 seats in total. 

The opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, made up of Democratic Action Party (DAP), Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), has 27 seats.

The Johor government comprises 16 assemblymen from BN and 12 from Perikatan Nasional.

In December, Johor state assembly speaker Suhaizan Kaiat told the Malay Mail that a by-election for the Kempas state seat would not be called following the death of Mr Osman.

He explained that the seat fell vacant more than three years after the incumbent was elected in the 14th general election (GE14) in May 2018, hence a by-election is not required.

However, there have been calls by certain quarters in UMNO to dissolve the state assembly and hold state polls in the short term.

UMNO Johor deputy chief Nur Jazlan Mohamed had told CNA last week that the Johor state government is presently in a “precarious position” given its razor-thin one-seat majority. 

“The chief minister does not have the support of every one even though there's an agreement in place. Better they settle this by going to (a state) election and give the mandate to the people,” he said then. 

Mr Nur Jazlan added that now was the right moment for UMNO to seize on support by the people, given the party’s performance in the Melaka state election in November, where UMNO-led BN swept 21 out of 28 seats. 

The opposition, meanwhile, insisted that this was not the right time to call for an election, due to the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant and that some parts of Johor are still recovering from monsoon floods. 

Johor DAP chairman Liew Chin Tong told CNA that pressure to call for polls was likely coming from UMNO members aligned to former prime minister Najib Razak.

“The UMNO faction aligned to Najib Razak is pushing for a Johor snap poll in order to destabilise the Ismail Sabri government and to trigger a snap poll at the national level, which Najib believes would benefit him and his faction,” said Mr Liew. 

POLLS TO BE HELD WITHIN 60 DAYS: HASNI 

During a press conference at 6pm, Mr Hasni said that the Election Commission will now decide on the date for the polls to be held. 

"From when the state assembly is dissolved, the state election needs to be held within 60 days," he said. 

Mr Hasni also said that the polls needed to be held in the short term because razor-thin majority the government has in the state assembly has made it difficult to "make decisions". 

He explained how a recent vote in the assembly to permit the involvement of opposition assemblymen as members of the District Development Action Committee (JTPD) had initially ended in stalemate, 27-27.

"The assembly speaker, who is not part of the government, but perhaps wanted to ensure that the government continue functioning, gave his decisive vote for the government," said Mr Hasni. 

"That's what I meant by how the state government was operating at the mercy of others, with just a single seat majority, it is without a doubt that the Johor government is unstable," he added. 

Mr Hasni added that UMNO's chances for the upcoming state elections was "very good". 

"We hope to contest more seats than we did in the 14th General Election (in 2018). I am confident that, with the determination shown by our grassroots, we will have no problem," he said. 

Source: CNA/am(zl)

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