Although Johor is considered a ‘fixed deposit' for BN and an impenetrable Umno fortress, a finding by the PAS Research Centre (PPP) shows that there are signs of change among voters in the southern state.

The centre, which is backed by the Islamist party, noted a significant shift among the young and middle-income voters in Johor, leading to a better showing by Pakatan Rakyat in the upcoming general elections.

kuala terengganu by election voting day 170109 voters queuePPP director of operations Zuhdi Marzuki even went as far as describing Pakatan's chances of grabbing Johor from BN as "very bright".

Analysis of voters support for BN in 13 of the 26 parliamentary seats - Segamat, Labis, Ledang, Bakri, Muar, Batu Pahat, Kluang, Gelang Patah, Tebrau, Pasir Gudang, Johor Bahru, Pulai and Kulai - has fallen below 50 percent.

Eight out of the 13 seats categorised as grey areas for BN indicated its grassroots support to be under 44 percent. Most of these areas are mixed constituencies where there are more or less even numbers of Malay and non-Malay voters.

Commenting on this phenomenon, PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub pointed to another study by a group of political analysts from a public university which found support for Pakatan among Malay voters in Johor to have increased by about three to five percent.

However, PPP's analysis was more modest - it found the increase of Malay support at between two and three percent, with the voters being mostly in the young and middle-income categories.

MCA seats particularly vunerable

Zuhdi said the increase in support from the Malay voters, together with the support of the Chinese voters, would generate enough swing that may result in seven more parliamentary seats falling to Pakatan.

BN controls 25 parliamentary seats in Johor, while Pakatan has just one - the northern Johor seat of Bakri held by DAP. The seats which are under BN are Umno (16), MCA (7), MIC (1) and Gerakan (1).

NONEThe PPP analysis further states that of the 56 state seats in Johor, only 26 are considered "white seats" for BN, with the rest labelled "grey". At present, Pakatan holds six state assembly seats, with DAP, 4, and PAS, 2.

According to the analysis, the seats categorised as safe for BN are Buluh Kasap, Kemelah, Bukit Serampang, Jorak, Serom, Bukit Naning, Sungai Balang, Semerah, Sri Medan, Semarang, Parit Yaani, Parit Raja, Penggaram, Senggarang, Mahkota, Kahang, Panti, Pasir Raja, Sedili, Johor Lama, Penawar, Tanjung Surat, Tiram, Benut, Pulai Sebatang and Kukup.

Zuhdi said the current status of the seats did not take into account the controversial Rapid oil refinery project (Rapid) that comes under the Pengerang parliamentary seat, which covers the state seats of Penawar and Tanjung Surat.

Based on the PPP analysis and taking into account the Rapid issue in Pengerang as well as issues concerning Felda, the Iskandar project and the people's demand for a "clean" leadership, the opposition coalition's chances of winning over the Umno stronghold were good, he added.

Salahuddin favoured as Johor MB

NONEPPP's confidence is buoyed by another study by the National Professor's Council (MPN), which showed respondents in Johor favouring Salahuddin (right) - the man who will spearhead the opposition campaign in Johor - for the menteri besar's post as compared to the incumbent, Umno's Abdul Ghani Othman.

PPP said the study revealed that Salahuddin received the highest nod from the respondents, followed by PAS central committee member Mazlan Aliman, with the Umno leaders, including Ghani, behind the two.

"The naming of a Malay candidate as MB by Pakatan has made a huge impact on the rise of voter support for Pakatan, especially among the young and middle-class voters," said Zuhdi.