#Highlight* FZ says: Will Kit Siang triumph or be buried in Johor?

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DAP grandmaster Lim Kit Siang's decision to contest in the Gelang Patah parliamentary seat in the next general election can be expected to electrify the political stage in Johor.

In the last electoral contest, the political tsunami that swept through much of Peninsular Malaysia, giving the Opposition control of an unprecedented five (now four) states and denying the Barisan Nasional its control of two-thirds of Parliament for the first time, had largely bypassed Johor.

A BN bastion state and the birthplace of Umno, Johor handed the ruling coalition almost a clean sweep of its 26 parliamentary constituencies, conceding only the Bakri seat to the DAP.

The BN's strong showing was also evident in the contest for the state assembly, where it won 50 seats and the opposition a meagre six.

Much, however, has changed in the five years that have elapsed.

The nationwide disaffection of the Chinese towards the MCA has now infected the community in Johor too, according to unofficial surveys. The opposition parties have coalesced into an organised front, Pakatan Rakyat, that has drawn attention with a new style of governance, particularly in the economically powerful states of Selangor and Penang.

A groundswell has also arisen among middle Malaysia against persistent reports of corruption and abuse of power involving leaders of the ruling government stretching back for decades.

Lim will be joined by other party heavyweights as Johor has been identified as Pakatan's frontline state that could decide whether the coalition will form the federal government in the general election.

Last week, DAP national chairman Karpal Singh told the media as much, expressing confidence that Pakatan could take at least 10 seats in Johor, if it got its strategies and candidates right.

But the lessons of history send out a different message. When the Opposition became too aggressive in the past, the voters have abandoned them before.

This happened in Penang when the DAP, which had come within striking distance of grabbing the state in the 1990 general election, decided to launch an all-out assault in the 1995 polls.

A key element of the DAP's strategy was to hammer at then Chief Minister Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon's perceived weakness in facing up to the federal government. To denote the DAP's strong resolve to defend Penang's interests, images of a gun-wielding Lim in a Robocop suit dominated the campaign hoardings.

The DAP's Tanjung III campaign drove home the message that Penang needed a chief minister with power. That menacing image and slogan seemed to crystallise the voters' fears of an Opposition that was too powerful.

As it turned out, the DAP was virtually wiped out in that state election, save for a lone assembly member.

So, will Johor voters, especially the Chinese, hand the DAP the extra 10% of support that the Opposition needs to fulfil its dream? Or will they be spooked at the prospect of an alternative coalition that may look like it is too eager to grab power?

Only history will tell whether Lim, whose hometown is Batu Pahat, will lead his party and the Pakatan coalition to a historic sweep of Johor, or whether the voters will turn their backs to an overly aggressive government-in-waiting.

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