Saturday, May 25

The risk behind BN’s confidence


WITH the election approaching, Pakatan Harapan (PH) – the four-party opposition tie-up – is pressing hard in its much touted bid to take over Putrajaya and PH chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has dug everything out of a hat to try and topple the Barisan Nasional (BN) and seize power.

PH’s rhetorical onslaught has intensified as polling looms on the horizon and will apparently continue right up to the election – and not surprisingly perhaps even after that, given the acrimonious clashes of personalities prevailing in Malaysian politics today.

Mahathir, former Prime Minister and Umno president turned opposition leader, has pulled out all the stops in an frantic attempt to dislodge Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak but the Prime Minister remains optimistic BN will perform well in the election.

In fact, while presiding over BN’s pre-14th General Election (GE14) meeting of late, Najib has expressed confidence the coalition will regain its two-thirds majority in parliament.

From the total of 222 parliamentary seats, BN is aiming to retain its original 134 seats in addition to recapturing 33 seats – lost by small margins in the last elections – for a total of 167 seats.

Najib has sent a strong message to all the BN component parties to be fully prepared for the upcoming election which must be called on or before August 24, 2018.

He has also reminded the component parties to field winnable candidates, stressing that to ensure BN’s victory, candidates lacking winnability should be replaced with winnable candidates from other BN-friendly parties – and even swapping of constituencies should be considered to increase BN’s chances.

Since leading the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (PPBM) to join Pakatan Harapan, Mahathir has been using various issues to attack Najib, including 1MDB, devaluation of Ringgit and increase of projects from China. Mahathir has also accused Najib of weak governance.

But instead of engaging in Mahathir-styled political haranguing which frequently sinks into ad hominem, Najib who is BN chairman, has instead focused on enhancing socio-economic development in the country.

He has highlighted the country’s transformation plans and prospects and even visited both the US and China to promote trade and strengthen relations.

Najib is resolute in signing contracts with China to implement a series of projects to boost the country’s economic status such as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Johor’s Forest City, the East Coast Rail Link, the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore High-Speed Rail and the Klang Valley MRT system.

His performance as Prime Minister is not second to Mahathir’s during the latter’s tenure – only that a number of BN members appear to lack vision and are uncouthly outspoken. Many are even investigated for malpractices which are a dent on BN image.

However, with Najib’s performance at the helm, it is not impossible for BN to recapture its two-thirds majority.

The burning question is whether all BN members, especially senior Umno officials, can give 100 per cent co-operation to achieve that goal.

Can they take the lead in walking the talk or will they continue wielding their power to serve personal interests?

GE14 can be held at any time before Aug next year. BN is ready and PH is also ready.

The opposition is more active in the countryside but BN is also confident of winning 167 out of the 222 seats.

Mahathir, PKR’s leader Datuk Seri Wan Azizah as well as DAP’s secretary general Lim Guan Eng all seem convinced the opposition can turn the tables – which again begs the question – will the BN partners fully cooperate with each other and will all Umno members close ranks to scupper the opposition’s plan? If not, BN is still at risk.

Of course, BN must put in the hard yards to regain the 33 seats it lost. The key will be Umno’s performance and the response from the Malays.

And finally, have the BN component parties, including the Malaysian Chinese Association, the Malaysian People’s Movement Party and the Malaysia India Congress, re-established their strong footing as well as reasserted their influence to trump the opposition in one fell swoop? Only time will tell. (Translated from Oriental Daily)