KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional was dealt another blow when four of its component parties in Sarawak decided on a divorce and left the coalition after 45 years of a bittersweet union.
With the departure of PBB, PRS, PDP and SUPP, BN is now officially disbanded in the state which was once regarded as a “fixed deposit” for the coalition.
The latest development also sees the strength of the 13-member Barisan reduced to a mere four component parties, namely Umno, MCA, MIC, and Gerakan, while MyPPP is still undecided on its status.
Sabah-based parties PBS, PBRS and LDP had also pulled out of the coalition while Upko shifted its alliance from Barisan to the Warisan-led state government.
From 133 parliamentary seats before the 14th general election, to 79 seats on results night, May 9, Barisan now has 57 seats nationwide, with Umno in Peninsular Malaysia owning the bulk with 47 seats; Sabah Umno with seven; MIC has two and MCA has one.
Just over a month ago, Barisan seemed like an undefeatable force, but now its future looks bleak.
The question remains whether more component parties will leave Barisan or whether the coalition will be dissolved altogether.
Independent researcher Prof Dr Andrew Aeria believes the dramatic defeat in the general election does not mean the end for Barisan, “if they take measures now to reform the ailing coalition”.
He said at this point, MCA, MIC and Gerakan had lost all their bargaining power and even if they chose to stay, Umno would remain the key decision maker in determining the future of the coalition.
“Many leaders in Barisan felt they were compromised by the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) issue. But I don't think it is the end for BN as yet,” he said, referring to the scandal-ridden state fund.
“To me, if they really want to change, those remaining party members and leaders who are less implicated in the 1MDB issue should come together now to discuss reforming Barisan,” he told Bernama.
He said most Barisan members were still in a state of bewilderment but that the decision on the coalition's future would be clearer after party elections of the respective components are held by year-end.
According to political analyst Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi, the remaining leaders in Barisan need to deliberate on the coalition's future following the dramatic change in the political landscape post-GE14.
He believes Barisan will undergo a rebranding exercise but how far and how earnest the change will be, remains to be seen.
He cautioned against making changes that would merely amount to “a snake shedding its skin”.
“It's not impossible that Barisan would undergo a rebranding process including a name change. But all this will be futile if the political culture it had practised is not changed, if their leadership structure doesn't change,” he said.
Awang Azman said although there was a possibility that MCA, MIC and Gerakan would follow in the footsteps of the Sarawak-based parties, it was highly unlikely they would do so.
“The reality is, MCA, MIC and Gerakan need Umno for their survival because they can only win with the backing of Umno’s Malay supporters and not the other way around.
“They also must accept the fact that they have been rejected by Malaysian voters,” he said. – Bernama