Unwise for BN to go into GE15 alone, say analysts

(FMT) – A suggestion that Barisan Nasional contest the next general election on its own has met with scepticism from two political analysts who say the move will only diminish Umno’s strength.

Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said the value of the BN brand had diminished over the years. “So it is not wise to go alone, unless they want to remain in the opposition.”

Political scientist Wong Chin Huat of the Jeffrey Sachs Centre on Sustainable Development said no party or coalition with national ambition can stand alone in the next general election.

Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs felt that Umno should go into the electoral battle with PAS in the Malay heartland, as only then can it guarantee success.

Azmi said Umno and BN, contesting on their own, would have to face PAS and PPBM, both of which were also eyeing the same voter segment, the Malay-Muslim electorate.

A multi-cornered fight would diminish Umno’s strength, he said. “Compared to PAS, Umno is a better party but to go in it alone will not serve any political purpose,” he told FMT.

He said BN component parties MCA and MIC must be strengthened first before the coalition could contest on its own. To compound matters, political parties in Sabah are hesitant to join BN, unlike before.

BN would need to have a bigger coalition, one which also includes parties from East Malaysia, in order to form a government.

“A decade ago it would be possible to go alone, but the BN brand has become diminished over the years. So it is not wise to go alone, unless they want to remain in the opposition,” he said.

Azmi’s comments came in response to a recent suggestion by BN Selangor information chief Isham Jalil, who said Umno and BN should prepare to go into GE15 alone.

Isham said any party with which it had an alliance could leave at any time and BN would not be able to stop them.

Wong said parties would need to seek at least some informal deal with other parties to nominate only a common candidate to avoid vote splitting, he said.

“Fighting with PAS would definitely hurt, and fighting PPBM may add to more bruises.”

However, Wong said GE15 would almost inevitably produce a hung parliament: parties that go up against each other may have to form post-election coalitions to be in power.

The best option for BN would be for the coalition to make sure they are “attractive” enough as a partner with which to form a coalition government.

Umno could not afford to burn bridges that would make future post-election pacts unviable, he said. “And secondly they must ensure their MPs do not jump to other blocs based on promises of ministerial positions, powers and perks.”

Oh said Umno could only win “what it currently has” if it contested the elections on its own.