Situation within BN ‘complicated’ as coalition plays kingmaker following Malaysia’s election: Analyst
Political analyst Rashaad Ali referred to problems within BN as “the last act of fragmentation of UMNO and BN”.
SINGAPORE: Barisan Nasional (BN) being the kingmakers in deciding which coalition could lead Malaysia is part of the “significant” democratic changes that have swept through the country in recent years, an expert said on Thursday (Nov 24).
“The fact that Barisan Nasional now is the primary negotiating party between Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional, PH and PN, says a lot about the development of democracy in the country,” political analyst Rashaad Ali told CNA’s Asia First.
On Thursday, the coalition’s lynchpin party United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) said it was ready to support and take part in a unity government, but on the condition that it is not led by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance headed by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
It was only in 2018 that an opposition coalition - PH - won the federal election and formed the government after UMNO’s 60 years in power. But the PH government lasted less than two years.
After Mr Muhyiddin stepped down as prime minister in August 2021, one of UMNO’s leaders, Ismail Sabri Yaacob, took over and remains the country’s caretaker prime minister amid the political impasse.
The idea of a unity government was mooted by the king, following last Saturday's general election that resulted in a hung parliament.
Malaysia on Thursday continued to hold its breath after he called for a special meeting of the country’s Council of Rulers to seek the views of the other rulers on the formation of the next federal government.
SITUATION WITHIN BN
The situation within BN is “quite complicated”, said Mr Rashaad, chief strategy and operations officer at nonpartisan think tank Social and Economic Research Initiative. He was responding to UMNO’s Ahmad Zahid Hamidi being blamed for the party’s drubbing at the polls.
“He's president of UMNO, he’s at the head of BN, so it makes (it) quite difficult to make a decision without him. Trying to remove him itself is not necessarily an easy process,” he said.
Mr Rashaad referred to problems within the coalition as “the last act of fragmentation of UMNO and BN”.
“They have to look at this opportunity. They have to look at this election outcome as a platform for them to rebuild as UMNO has been in a precarious position for the last few years,” he said.
“BN’s component parties are still struggling to break the deadlock that Pakatan Harapan has over non-Muslim votes. So, they really do have to look at this scenario and think: ‘What is the best way? What is the best platform for us to rebuild as a party, as a coalition?’”
Dr Wong Chin Huat, a political analyst from Sunway University, noted that UMNO will have its annual assembly from Dec 21 to 24 this year.
“That would be the time for Zahid to bow out and pass the baton,” he told CNA938’s Asia First.
There have also been reports that BN component parties – Malaysia Chinese Association, Malaysian Indian Congress and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) - have signed a letter of no-confidence against Mr Zahid.
On this, the disagreement by the component parties does not matter for UMNO because they make up just four out of 30 seats, he said, adding that the objections have probably backfired.
“As much as UMNO is divided, it does not like its non-Malay junior partners telling it what to do,” he said.
PH chief Anwar Ibrahim, who has been vying for the prime minister position for decades, has a “better chance, but anything can happen in Malaysian politics”, Dr Wong said.
Dr Wong proposed an alternative scenario to how things could play out.
“Another option is a unity government led by UMNO if PN would bend over just to block PH and offer the prime ministership back to UMNO,” he said.
He believes a new government is likely to be in place by the end of this week.
As the king tries to find a way forward with a representative government, Malaysian voters are tired and frustrated, but they will remain politically engaged, the experts said.
Going into this election, observers were expecting poor turnout at the polls, citing political fatigue and weather hindrances caused by the monsoon period.
The high voter turnout however showed that “Malaysians are very invested in politics, are very invested in the way that our lives are governed as a whole,” Mr Rashaad said.
“People are a bit tired. People want to see a swift resolution. But at the same time, it also shows that there's still a very strong level of engagement that doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon,” he said.