KUALA LUMPUR: The Barisan Nasional (BN) opposition coalition is teetering on the verge of collapse after its component parties in the east Malaysian state of Sarawak threatened to ditch the decades-old alliance.
The 13 parties that comprise BN are now turning inwards to save themselves after having suffered their worst electoral defeat at the May 9 general election.
Once considered a “safe deposit” for BN, component parties in Sarawak are now mulling to leave the coalition as early as next week.
Combined, the four Sarawak parties including the state ruling Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) hold 19 seats out of 79 won by BN at the election.
Amir Fareed, research analyst of KRA Group, said: “If PBB walks away, BN should just dissolve itself and rebrand itself as another coalition.”
The PBB’s move comes after the Pakatan Harapan government led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad filed in court to claim full ownership of oil and gas resources in Sarawak, forcing the ruling party in Sarawak to further distance itself from BN.
“This is a big bargaining chip that Mahathir will leverage on whether the Sarawak state government will want to remain in BN or otherwise,” said Amir.
“If Sarawak stays in the BN fold, it will be able to provide BN with some resources to sustain the coalition.”
Acting UMNO chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi met Mahathir on Thursday, which was widely seen as a desperate attempt to save the BN alliance from crumbling.
The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), have also signalled their intention to leave BN.
This comes after their leaders were voted out by the people in the recent polls.
S Subramaniam, president of MIC, said: “We feel BN has to reform to meet the current challenges. We will see if the reform happens, otherwise we will keep our options open.”
MCA, which was left with only one seat in parliament, has even blamed the UMNO-led BN for the disastrous showing at the polls.
Bung Mokhtar Radin, UMNO supreme council member, said: “I am not worried about BN breaking up. We can see some other parties did not contribute anything (at the election) – so what’s the point of them remaining with us?
“It’s best that they leave BN early, so we don’t have enemies in our midst.”
UMNO’s acting deputy president Hishammuddin Hussein said BN must change.
“We have to be brave to go into new frontiers which we have not charted before,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to look at things afresh; this is not just the responsibility of UMNO members but also the responsibility of BN members because the people have spoken. They did not reject us completely, they need us to be realistic.
“Going forward, it must be something to give them hope, we are going to change not just for Malays, but for all Malaysians.”
UMNO will have its party elections at the end of June – an opportunity for the 72-year-old party to renew itself and redefine its role in Malaysia’s changing political landscape.