Malaysia's oldest coalition Barisan Nasional suspended to explore new partnerships

Barisan Nasional governed Malaysia for over six decades until its shock election defeat in May. Now, Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa said BN component parties needed to be pragmatic and look at the possibility of working with other parties.
Barisan Nasional governed Malaysia for over six decades until its shock election defeat in May. Now, Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa said BN component parties needed to be pragmatic and look at the possibility of working with other parties.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's oldest coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) has been temporarily suspended to explore partnerships with other political parties, said Tan Sri Annuar Musa, secretary-general of Umno, which chairs the pact.

Former minister Annuar told news site The Malaysian Insight (TMI) that Umno was going through a "new phase" and the BN component parties needed to be pragmatic and look at the possibility of working with other parties.

"We have decided that component parties must take care of themselves, for the time being."

"BN, for the time being, needs to be suspended for a little while. Let us try a new approach," Mr Annuar said.

The country's longest-serving coalition governed Malaysia for over six decades until its shock election defeat in May, where it won only 79 of the 222 seats in Parliament.

From a grand pact of 13 parties, BN is now left with three parties - Umno, Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). The departure of several parties, mainly from Sabah and Sarawak, after the election loss, leaves BN with 54 parliamentary seats, most of them held by Umno MPs.

"We need to be very pragmatic. We cannot afford to sit on our past successes, still thinking of the glorious days of BN. We need to instead make a practical assessment," Mr Annuar added, according to TMI.

 

The Ketereh MP blamed the election loss on BN's rigidity, saying nearly 30 parliamentary seats could have been won if the pact had cooperated with Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), the opposition Islamic party.

"Those three-cornered fights never worked in our favour and, in fact, were advantageous to the new political parties. How much damage has been done for being so rigid? We now have to look at political configurations," he told the news site.

The coalition is also mulling over a suggestion to break from tradition by allowing its component parties to campaign under their own banners, instead of using the iconic BN symbol, in upcoming by-elections in Selangor state.

"They are most welcome to do that. That is part of the acid test and we will like to see the result. We do not have a problem with that," said Mr Annuar. "At Umno level, we agree if MCA contests under its own logo. Later on, if Umno decides to contest using its own logo, we can also do that."