For BN, a balancing act between voters and warlords

Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

The Barisan Nasional’s (BN) inability to nail down a final list of candidates and the need to strike a delicate balance between pleasing voters and not sidelining its political warlords has been cited as reasons for the delay in calling elections, Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper reported today.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has continued to keep Malaysians guessing over the date of the polls even though several dates have been bandied about in the media over the past year.

The Umno president and BN chairman has also refused to release BN’s candidates list for the polls, despite several calls from grassroots leaders to do so, noting that keeping the list under wraps is a “strategic” decision.

Quoting political analyst Oh Ei Sun today, Singapore’s ST reported that although the federal opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is in itself entangled in a tussle over seats, the problem of selecting the best contestants is worse for BN than for its political foes.

Oh said that PKR and DAP lack a strong grassroots system that would allow a party leader to mobilise an efficient election machinery that would prevent sabotage of a candidate.

“In Umno, however, the system of patronage means a lot of people owe their livelihoods to certain leaders and warlords. The potential and ability to sabotage candidates are much stronger,” the analyst was quoted as saying.

Sabotage has been highlighted as among one of Umno’s greatest fears going into the 13th general election.

During the party’s last two general assemblies, this was the strongest message that Najib sent to the party’s over three million members.

He repeatedly reminded members to accept the candidates selected by the BN leadership, even if they are not chosen, and urged them to work with their respective parties to ensure the candidate wins the polls for BN.