BN parties in Sarawak mull over leaving the coalition

KUCHING • Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties will meet next week to decide whether to abandon the 13-party coalition that was ousted from power in the country's general election last month.

The four Sarawak BN parties together hold 19 of the 31 parliamentary seats in Malaysia's biggest state.

They comprise Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu with 13 seats, Parti Rakyat Sarawak with three, Progressive Democratic Party with two, and one held by Sarawak United People's Party (Supp).

BN won 79 out of the 222 wards in Parliament in the May 9 General Election, a shocking loss for the coalition that had ruled Malaysia for 61 years.

BN has since lost one seat after a Sabah MP defected.

If the four Sarawak parties decide to leave BN at their June 12 meeting, the once-mighty coalition would be left with 59 seats - 54 of those won by Umno.

BN won 133 parliamentary seats in the 2013 General Election, with Sabah and Sarawak often touted as the coalition's "fixed-deposit", sure-win states.

BN has already lost Sabah to Parti Warisan Sabah, an ally of the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Additionally, after the May 9 polls, BN won control of the Perlis, Pahang and Sarawak state assemblies - out of Malaysia's total of 13 state legislatures.

PH won eight states and Parti Islam SeMalaysia took two. If the Sarawak BN parties strike out on their own, BN would have just the Perlis and Pahang assemblies.

Sarawak sources said yesterday that the parties had little interest in staying in BN after the general election and would prefer to form their own Sarawak-based coalition.

This would allow them to focus on the state's interests and prepare for the next state election in 2021.

One source said the grassroots members of the four Sarawak parties had "no interest" in remaining in BN as the coalition's logo was no longer "sellable" in politics.

"People think this is a chance for Sarawak's four parties to form our own coalition rather than stay in Barisan for the interest of Sarawak," he said.

The source also said most Supp members were in favour of leaving BN.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2018, with the headline 'BN parties in Sarawak mull over leaving the coalition'. Print Edition | Subscribe