Seat talks in BN stalled, thanks to Umno, say sources

Khoo Gek San

Seat talk among Barisan Nasional component parties have been suspended since January, after Annuar Musa was removed as the pact’s secretary-general. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, April 5, 2021.

EVEN as Umno is calling for quick elections, seat talks among Barisan Nasional component parties have been stuck in a stalemate since January, said sources. 

They told The Malaysian Insight that talks have remained suspended since Umno president and BN chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi removed his critic Annuar Musa as the pact’s secretary-general in January.

The sources also said the stalemate was attributed to Umno’s attitude in demanding seats traditionally contested by other BN parties.

They added that Zahid has also yet to discuss with BN partners on the pact’s direction in the 15th general election.

The BN leaders are however scheduled to meet tonight to discuss several matters, including its position in the next general election.

“When Annuar was the BN secretary-general, he acted as the chief coordinator between the BN parties in preliminary discussions on seat allocations. 

“But in early January this year, Zahid suddenly announced Annuar’s removal, which has caused a standstill in seat negotiations,” said a source from a component party.

“And after Ahmad Maslan took over as BN secretary-general, there have been no seat negotiations at all,” said the source. 

He added that seat talks have not even started with PAS, and they are now left wondering if Umno will cooperate with the Islamist party or not as was agreed previously in the Umno-PAS Muafakat Nasional pact. 

Last month, Umno officially decided in its annual general meeting that it would not cooperate with Bersatu and Perikatan Nasional in the next election, and would opt to go solo under the BN banner.

It also urged Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to dissolve Parliament as soon as the emergency ends in August. 

At the same time, Umno has also asked PAS to make up its mind over its partnership in MN. 

However PAS has indicated its preference to work with Bersatu and PN, although it has called on Umno to continue working together for the sake of the Malay-Muslim community. 

The other parties in BN – MCA, MIC and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) – have said that Umno’s decision does not reflect the pact’s stand as it has not been discussed within BN.

Bullying Umno

The source also said the other problem was that while top level preliminary discussions had kick-started last year, Umno’s division and grassroots leaders have been making public announcements from time to time in demanding seats previously allocated to party allies. 

As such, Umno leaders have demanded to contest in many traditional seats belonging to MCA and MIC. 

These include MCA’s Alor Setar, Padang Serai, Tg Malim, Ampang, Selayang, Wangsa Maju, Seremban, Alor Gajah and Kuantan parliamentary seats. 

In the last elections, MCA lost or failed to win back all these seats from Pakatan Harapan parties.

As for MIC, Umno is demanding Sg Siput, Hulu Selangor, Sg Buloh and Kapar seats – all considered their traditional seats, with Sg Siput having an emotional attachment to the party as it was held by its previous presidents V. Sambanthan and S. Samy Vellu since 1959. 

The party, however lost all these seats in the 2008 election. 

The sources said except for Seremban (48.4%) and Sg Siput (34.3%), the proportion of Malay voters in the other seats exceed 50%, including Alor Setar (63.6%) and Padang Serai (59.0%), Tg Malim (55.6%), Ampang (54.8%), Selayang (51.8%), Wangsa Maju (59.8%), Alor Gajah (60.8%), Kuantan (66.4%), Hulu Selangor (64.0%), Sg Buloh (70.7%) and Kapar (65.3%). 

This is the main reason Umno wants to contest in these seats, hoping to win based on Malay voters. 

Last year, Tg Malim Umno chairman Mohd Khusairi Abdul Talib urged MCA to surrender the constituency to Umno. 

Kusairi claimed Umno will contest in Tg Malim in GE15, and told MCA not to waste time. 

Tg Malim MC chief Goh Choong Seng said it was not up to Khusairi to grab the seat. 

He said allocation of seats should be decided by the central leadership of the BN, and not local leaders. 

MCA secretary-general Chong Sin Woon meanwhile reminded Kusairi the final decision will be made by BN’s central leadership. 

The Malaysian Insight carried a report last week in which MIC vice president Sivarraajh Chandran rejected Umno’s demand for the Indian party’s seats for GE15.

He added that Umno should respect MIC and that it was an insult to ask for the traditional seats to be vacated.

In the 14th general election, BN coalition parties were allocated 165 seats in Peninsular Malaysia – with Umno taking the biggest share with 105 seats, followed by MCA (39), Gerakan (11), MIC (9) and MyPPP (1).

However with PH trouncing BN in the election, Umno won only 54 seats followed by MCA with one seat (Ayer Hitam) and two for MIC (Tapah and Cameron Highlands). Gerakan and MyPPP were completely wiped out. 

In subsequent by-elections, MCA won back the Tg Piai seat while MIC gave up Cameron Highlands to Umno to contest, which the Malay party won.

After GE14, BN also faced disintegration with parties leaving the coalition, reducing its members from 13 to just four. – April 5, 2021.

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