BN component parties in Sarawak reportedly poised to defect

The four Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties in Sarawak may soon ally itself with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition that won the general election, a Malaysian online news site reported yesterday.

Citing a leader in Sarawak BN, Malaysiakini said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has met Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud to discuss future options for the state.

Sarawak is Malaysia's largest state and the only one where Umno is not present.

According to the BN leader from Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the meeting took place in Kuala Lumpur, with former finance minister Daim Zainuddin also present, Malaysiakini reported.

PBB is the lead BN party in Sarawak. The other component parties are Parti Rakyat Sarawak, Sarawak United People's Party and Progressive Democratic Party.

The source said the governor was to summon Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari either yesterday or today for an audience.

Sarawak BN has 19 Parliament seats, PH has 10 and two are held by independent MPs.

The BN coalition also controls the Sarawak state assembly.

Like the people of Sabah, Sarawakians have been campaigning for more autonomy, as provided in the 1963 agreement when Malaysia was formed.

Sarawak is not the only state in a political flux after the election.

The tussle to form state governments in Sabah and Perak continued yesterday, with PH and BN both claiming they had the majority to lead these large states.

Sabah, which has a reputation for fast-shifting allegiances, installed a BN chief minister at 11.15pm on Thursday.

But barely 12 hours later, five BN assemblymen crossed over to Parti Warisan Sabah - a close ally of PH. A sixth joined later. This led to calls for the state governor to swear in a new chief minister.

In Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah held meetings with BN and PH leaders, but has not been able to break the impasse over the hung state assembly.

The confusion in the two states came as BN lost grip on power and support for PH surged.

In Sabah, Parti Warisan Sabah - which is barely two years old - won 21 state seats and ally PH another eight, bringing in a total of 29 seats.

BN won 29 seats.

The remaining two wards were won by the small party Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku, or Star for short.

Star on Thursday agreed to form a coalition with BN, allowing them to have a majority of 31 seats.

But after six defections, the Star-BN alliance is left with 25 lawmakers, while PH now has 35.

In Perak, PH won 29 state seats out of the total 59. BN won 27, and Parti Islam SeMalaysia won three wards.

PH wants to form the new government, saying it has the most seats. But PAS said it has agreed to form a coalition with BN.

Sultan Nazrin is expected to decide today on which alliance will run the northern state.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline 'BN component parties in Sarawak reportedly poised to defect'. Print Edition | Subscribe