GE14: BN, Najib have the upper hand, say analysts

 |Feb 14, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Two political analysts believe that Barisan Nasional (BN) and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak have the upper hand in the coming general election (GE14).

Jeniri Amir, an associate professor at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, said voter support for Pakatan Harapan (PH) had been declining over the past year.

He added that the internal crisis among its component parties, especially on the allocation of seats, could worsen in the run-up to GE14 which is expected to be held within three months.

Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia meanwhile said the opposition was more fractured this time round as PAS was going it alone.

He compared it with the united front against BN in the previous two elections, adding that there would no longer be straight fights in most constituencies.

This would work to BN’s advantage, he said.

On the other hand, Jeniri said, voters’ opinion of the government had been steadily improving due to its commitment to solving the people’s problems.

“I strongly believe Najib will lead BN to a comfortable win this time, despite consistent attacks from former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the opposition.

“Compared with the last few years, BN and Najib are now in a more solid position to be re-elected,” he said.

He said BN also had a good chance of regaining a two-thirds majority as three-cornered fights were expected to prevail in GE14.

He added that the bill on the redelineation of election boundaries was due to be passed in Parliament next month.

This was in line with a recent public opinion poll by the Merdeka Center which said that BN is only 13 seats short of a two-thirds majority.

Sivamurugan said BN had become stronger since 2015 following the leadership crisis in Umno where Najib dropped then-deputy president and deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and vice-president Shafie Apdal from the cabinet.

“The prime minister has since consolidated his position based on the strong support within Umno,” he said.

He said Malay votes in GE14 would see a five-way split between Umno, PKR, PAS, Amanah and PPBM, but that Umno would still have the upper hand, especially in rural constituencies which make up the bulk of the 222 parliamentary seats.

Sivamurugan said Sabah and Sarawak would remain the bastion and “fixed deposits” of BN supporters, bolstered by Najib’s strong image as a prime minister who genuinely cares for their well-being.

Jeniri agreed, saying the political narrative of development was still relevant in Sabah and Sarawak, which remained largely rural states.

During election time, he added, rural voters were more concerned about bread and butter issues.

“I strongly believe it is impossible to win a general election in Malaysia without winning Sabah, Sarawak and the rural seats,” he said.

Jeniri also dismissed efforts by the opposition to draw attention to the 1MDB issue, saying this had not gained any traction among voters in rural areas.

“Opposition parties are nowhere near to an election pact. In fact, they are still quarrelling about the allocation of seats,” he added.

According to Jeniri, GE14 will boil down to a choice between Najib and Mahathir, who now leads the opposition front.

“Are you telling me that Malaysians want to be ruled by a 93-year-old leader who was given the opportunity by BN and Umno to lead the country for 22 years? What can he do for one or two years as PM?” he said.

“To bring Malaysia to the future, voters have to choose wisely. The stakes are high and this is not a game or an experiment. There is no point in crying over spilt milk. Just look at the Brexit case (in Britain) and also the voters in the US over Donald Trump. Now they regret, but it’s too late.

“Do they want to go back to the Mahathir era or do they want to be led by a visionary and dynamic leader who is committed to bringing Malaysia to a higher level?” – Bernama