Will Barisan Nasional go it alone into the next general election?

Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional flags line a road in Rantau April 1, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional flags line a road in Rantau April 1, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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COMMENTARY, Dec 28 — Muafakat Nasional (MN), the “coalition” made up of the two largest Malay-based parties in the country, which came into being just last year is now on the brink of dissolution or probably unofficially “dissolved” already.

The reason is simple: PAS is now under Perikatan Nasional (PN) and has given Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) the mandate to discuss seat allocations for the coming general elections (GE) with Umno.

In short, the Islamist party has abandoned Umno as its comrade-in-arms and embraced its new political partner Bersatu, which is seeking ways to win influence among Malay voters in rural and urban constituencies.

With PAS now in its corner, Bersatu has less “work to do” and can focus on setting up the party machinery for seats where PAS has lesser influence and where Umno is dominant and seats which are marginally Malay dominant.

The formation of MN last year gave the country a new political equation for the next general election where two Malay-based parties dominate the political arena and the scenario was further enhanced when Bersatu was accepted into the two-party coalition.

With three Malay-based parties dominating the political ground, opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) was considered not an obstacle anymore for Tan Sri Muhyidddin Yassin-led PN to continue ruling after the GE.

After all, the present favours PN and the political equation also tilts towards PN with opposition PH in disarray and losing direction as Malaysians at large lose confidence in the coalition’s capability and ability to lead the nation after being given the opportunity for 22 months.

Moreover, Malaysians have put their trust and confidence in the present Muhyiddin-led government to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The federal Budget was also approved despite the opposition’s “earnest” non-synchronised effort to block it.

However, the political equation changed when PAS joined the bigger PN coalition, leaving Umno on its own.

PAS’ move has left Umno in an awkward position — to move alone or wait for the Islamist party to change or make up its mind about whether to continue with MN or go all in with PN.

Umno, which is the backbone of Barisan Nasional (BN), does not seem to be threatened by PAS’ move as the multi-racial Malay-based coalition is confident of its standing in the coming general election.

In fact, leaders of the once powerful ruling coalition have been calling PAS leaders to state the party’s stand clearly so that BN can move fast with the general election nearing.

BN did not join the bigger coalition of PN as it wanted to be treated as an equal and not play second fiddle to the dominant Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) as it has more seats than the latter.

Refusing to play second fiddle to Bersatu, BN may go on its own in the general election despite the coalition numbers probably not being sufficient to form a government.

In fact, many feel that no party will be able to form a government given the complication of the equation if PAS is with Bersatu and abandons BN.

In fact, the most sensitive issue the three Malay parties face in their discussions is distribution of seats in the coming general election.

PAS’ swing towards PN is inevitable given the Islamist party seems to benefit more than if it joins BN, which is not in power.

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