Malaysia Watch: Split within Barisan National possible

Nevertheless, the results of the by-elections are a defeat for Tun Mahathir Mohamad the former Prime Minister of Malaysia. It is also a bad start for Najib Tun Razak, the Prime Minsiter of choice of Tun Mahathir. 

Abdel Jaber, WFOL.TV

Mahathir denied, Najib Razak’s feel good factor failed to materialize and Malays gave more support to the Pakatan Rakyat of Anwar Ibrahim, who is the man of the moment in Malaysian politics. Rumours across the Malaysian blogosphere suggest a group of Malay MP’s are pondering leaving the BN to join the PR in the opposition.

As a result of the by-elections held in Malaysia yesterday, a split in the Barisan National (BN) is now possible. With the reconfirmation of the March 2008 election results in Perak and Kedah where the PR opposition snatched victories with larger majority is indication of trouble for the BN and the United Malays National Organization (Umno).

Already it is being rumoured that Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Shahrir Ahma are bound to be sailing away from the Umno and the BN to join Anwar Ibrahim’s party the Party Keadilaan Rakyat (PKR). Some bloggers are even stating that they will bring a bunch of Umno members with them in order to force a no confidence vote in the Parliament against Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. If the rumor mill were to be reality, the PR would be in power in Putrajaya today. However, the reality in Malaysia is, despite the opposition's victory in the by-elections; only a General Election will decide the fate of the government and not the rumor mill.

Malaysia’s press reports and blogs have been ruled by rumours ever since the reign of the Tun Mahathir regime with its tight press rules. The rumour mill in the country has since then become the barometer of an inexact science from where observers and analysts are bound to seek information to determine the country’s political future. It is possible though that Tengku Razaleigh Hamza leaves the Umno again to join the opposition in what could be a long term strategy of reducing the popular support the Umno still enjoy in several states in Malaysia. Indeed, the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is still holding some cards under his sleeve and could appoint Razaleigh as Minister in his new cabinet which is bound to be annonced soon.

In the event Razaleigh is nominated Minister in the Najib Razak cabinet, it will be almost impossible for the stalwart and popular political figure to leave the Umno for the PKR or the PR. This will be a 'political' coup by Najib Razak who seems to be willing to open the doors of his government to 'willing' candidates. It will be so unless the Tengku refuses to be a Cabinet Minister.

Nevertheless, the results of the by-elections are a defeat for Tun Mahathir Mohamad the former Prime Minister of Malaysia. It is also a bad start for Najib Tun Razak, the Prime Minsiter of choice of Tun Mahathir. The ‘rakyat’ has demonstrated massively that they are behind Anwar Ibrahim, the former protégé of Tun Mahathir whom the former Premier had caught and sent to jail for what is until today, known as fabricated reasons.

The raz-de-maree (tsunami) that took place in Perak and Kedah where the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) repeated its 2008 victories with larger majority is indicative of the mood of the Malaysian nation. Malaysia is probably witnessing a state of affairs where the situation is calm on the surface but a real undercurrent is rising. This has translated in a bigger victory for the PR in Perak and Kedah. It is a message that Anwar Ibrahim has more political clout than Tun Mahathir who seem to be ‘passee’ and out of focus.

This bigger margin of victory indicates yet another shift in the Malay voting pattern which is slowly dwindling from the Umno and the BN towards the PR with the PAS and the PKR benefiting largely. The Malay vote element is salient one in Malaysia’s electoral process as the Malays form the majority of the nation’s population. Estimates are that the Malays represent 80% of the total number of Muslims (which is 60% of the national population figure).

More worrisome for the ruling coalition, the Barisan National is the way the voters reacted after the coup in Perak and attempts at bringing down the Kedah state government. “A wonderful people,” said Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin who was until recently the Chief Minister of Perak until the BN ‘coup’ that ousted him from the government house. Nizar made it clear that the people had spoken with this bigger victory and urged the authorities (including the Sultan of Perak) to dissolve the controversial Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) and to call for fresh elections in Perak. It is apparent that the PR will possibly trash the BN if such an election is held statewide.

Furthermore, the massive denial of Tun Mahathir despite his campaigning in both states in favour of the BN and the United Malays National Organization (Umno). WFOL did state that though Tun Mahathir could rally a majority of Malays under the Umno umbrella, this did not mean victory would be achieved by the latter party against the PR in elections. And we were proven right again on the dot of the Umno General Assembly analysis we carried out in March this year.

Tun Mahathir had banked on his popularity among the Malays to strike against the PAS and the party of Anwar Ibrahim, his alter-ego, and opposition leader. The strategy has obviously backfired with bloggers commenting that Tun Mahathir would do better to stick to his overtly popular blogging exercise. Others are claiming that the Malaysians do not want a return to the old days of Tun Mahathir, with its inconsiderate use of the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA), massive press control and the lack of democratic principles.

Tun Mahathir’s rejoining of the Umno is now tainted by the defeat the BN registered against the PR in the by-elections. It is a clear indication that Anwar Ibrahim has greater clout over the people than Tun Mahathir and the Umno will have to think twice before offering Tun Mahathir the role of adviser either for the party or the government.

It is now almost certain that a majority of the Malaysians, Malays, Chinese, Indians and all the rest are pondering for change in the country. With the Bukit Gantang and the Bukit Selambau results firmly against the BN, it is now for the BN and its component parties to re-invent themselves.

The by-election results have little to hide as they are altogether a form of rejection of the new leadership of the Barisan National and of the Umno. It is unfortunate for the new Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak who has only recently been nominated Prime Minister on the 3rd April.

Najib had a grand start in office with the release of 13 Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees and the lifting of an unpopular ban on two opposition newspapers, the Harakah and the Suara Keadilaan. He made some popular moves since then with surprise visits in some Kuala Lumpur townships and has pronounced his government’s intention to see a ‘freer’ press in the country.

Despite rumours, it is highly improbable that the Umno will allow itself to disintegrate due to the by-elections results. It is possible though that the party will re-think its strategy and promote the '1Malaysia' concept of Najib Razak instead of pushing for the ‘Malay’ agenda when the country seems to be in favour of a new deal.