Past decisions hindering BN’s move forward, analysts say

Alfian Z.M. Tahir

Barisan Nasional finds itself in a quandary over who to support as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister due to several decisions made prior to the 15th general election, analysts say. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 24, 2022.

BARISAN Nasional (BN) is in a bind on who to support as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister due to several decisions made prior to the 15th general election, analysts said.

BN’s lynchpin Umno had previously agreed not to have any cooperation with Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) component party, DAP, as well as PH chairman Anwar Ibrahim, hence making it hard for the party’s top leaders to convince grassroots members now.

Analysts, however, said BN, especially Umno, should look to safeguard its own political survival by cooperating with PH, a coalition that did not cause much damage to the former during the polls.

On Saturday, PH won 82 parliamentary seats, followed by Perikatan Nasional (PN) with 73 and BN, 30.

On Tuesday, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong summoned Anwar and PN chairman Muhyiddin Yassin after none of them was able to muster the numbers to form the federal government.

After the meeting, Muhyiddin told reporters the king had asked PN to work with PH to form a unity government, which the PN chairman refused.

The BN supreme council had also decided not to support PH or PN in the race to form the next federal government.

Political pundits say many within Barisan Nasional are not seeing things rationally and are acting emotionally in calling for Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s resignation. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Najjua Zulkefli, November 24, 2022.

Ilham Centre’s Hisommudin Bakar said BN had several options but could not move forward due to these decisions.

He said the call from several Umno leaders and members for its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to resign, following BN’s poor performance in the polls, was another factor that caused the deadlock.

“Umno made it clear during their general assembly that they wouldn’t accept Anwar and DAP but now they had no choice but to back PH, as PN had already caused too much damage to the party.

“PN won many of BN’s seats, especially in Malay-majority areas. So BN has to choose PH over PN in order to survive.

“The ‘No Anwar No DAP’ mantra is now a problem for Umno and BN. They must fix this.

“Plus many now want Zahid to resign. They have become emotional and are blaming Zahid for the poor performance.

“They fail to see things rationally and are allowing their emotions to take over. PH is a better option for BN because to join PN would mean Umno will not survive in the next election,” said Hisommudin.

Academic Dr Mazlan Ali, meanwhile, said BN may want to consider having a confidence and supply agreement (CSA) with PH in order to smoothen the current resistance in Umno.

He said by having the CSA, a minority government can be formed and it can also offer some assurance to party members that Umno is not selling its “soul” to PH, their common political enemy before the formation of PN.

“BN has been changing its tune because of the strong resistance from Umno members and leaders who are now urging the coalition to become the opposition. They can appease the rebels within the party by signing a CSA with PH, let PH run the country, pass the budget and at the same time BN will not be part of the government,” Mazlan said.

“Why Zahid has a close rapport with PH is because of Umno’s own survival. Umno’s seats were taken by PN, not PKR or DAP. Therefore supporting PH is a better option.”

The impasse to pick the 10th prime minister is set to continue as the king is scheduled to have a meeting with Malay rulers today.

Comptroller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah called the meeting to seek the views of the other royals on the political deadlock.

An academic says Barisan Nasional may want to consider having a confidence and supply agreement with Pakatan Harapan in order to smoothen the current resistance in Umno. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 24, 2022.

Consider the moderate path

Universiti Malaya’s senior academic Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said it is time for BN to walk the moderate path instead of being conservative.

He said Umno must not adopt the populist approach of race and religion to garner support.

“This is about their own survival, including that of MCA and MIC. Although in Umno there is a group of people who prefer PN because they were part of the cabinet, they need to realise that with PH, Umno can gather their strength again.

“PN has taken many of their seats, how can these people in Umno allow PN to roam free in their traditional seats? It is time they become more moderate.

“They have to start thinking wisely for their survival. Using race and religion is a populist move, you get support easily but that is a dangerous route to go on. Our multiracial country will not prosper if we adopt such mentality,” said Awang Azman.

Positions not a concern

All three pundits concluded that BN’s change of stance in the past few days had nothing to do with political posts.

They agreed that BN could have easily opted to choose PH if they were hungry for power.

“It is not about posts or positions now. Umno, especially, is looking at how they can revive their careers after the heavy loss.

“That is why decisions after decisions were made and finally they agreed to become opposition. They could not afford another rebellion from ordinary members to take place just because the top leaders want to work with PH,” they added. – November 24, 2022.

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