PETALING JAYA • Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and other Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders attended a hush-hush three-day retreat in a hill resort just outside Kuala Lumpur that ended on Sunday to look at election strategies, The Star newspaper reported.
Datuk Seri Najib, chairman of the 13-party BN coalition that rules Asean's third-biggest economy, and his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi were present throughout the closed-door retreat.
The meeting, attended by some 300 leaders, began after Friday prayers at a government training institute in Janda Baik, Pahang, close to the Genting Highlands resort.
"While we did not touch a lot on the detailed preparations for the 14th general election, I would summarise the three days and two nights as a refresher course for all of us to come together as a team to face the adversaries," said Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, president of BN component party Malaysian Chinese Association.
He said the meeting was structured like a training course aimed at enhancing the esprit de corps and cooperation among the BN parties.
The 14th general election must be called by August next year, but is widely expected to be called this year.
If nationwide polls were held today, BN could expect to win 122 wards, The Malaysian Insight (TMI) news site reported yesterday, citing BN polling data from February and last month.
At best, the coalition could win 128 seats, fewer than the 132 wards it has now, but sufficient to retain power, TMI said.
Malaysia's Parliament has 222 seats, with a minimum majority of 112 wards needed to win control of the House.
The Star said that the retreat was a sign that the next general election "is on the horizon". These hush-hush meetings are often held just before national polls are called.
Also in attendance were the mentris besar and chief ministers from the 10 states BN controls.
BN communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan said Mr Najib and Datuk Seri Zahid were active participants in all the sessions held.
"This is the fourth Barisan retreat held, and in all honesty, the spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie now is stronger than ever - not just at the national level but at state level, including in Sabah and Sarawak," said Datuk Seri Rahman.
The Islamic Bill presented in Parliament last week by the chief of the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia remains a hot-button issue.
While Umno, BN's lead party, first said it was backing the controversial Bill, BN has recently decided to drop support for the Bill's tabling in Parliament.
Asked whether differences of opinion on the Bill had cast a shadow over the coalition, Mr Rahman told The Star: "The issues are plenty but because of the Prime Minister's leadership and our emphasis on consensus, we can overcome them.
"Our component party leaders are people who understand the spirit. The DNA of Barisan and our unity are not easily rocked as we have a proven and time-tested system."