KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The emergence in Malaysia of new political parties and unsettled issues between Barisan Nasional (BN) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) could trigger multi-cornered fights in several state seats in the Nov 20 Melaka state elections, an analyst said.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) political analyst Suffian Mansor said cooperation was unlikely between BN and PN because before the dissolution of the 28-seat state assembly, Umno had 13 seats, compared with PN's two through Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).
"Umno wants to be the dominant party," he said. "On the one hand, Perikatan and Barisan are not able to solve their problems and, on the other, there are new parties such as Parti Kuasa Rakyat and several independent candidates who are expected to contest in the election."
On Oct 13, Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said BN would contest the Melaka state polls without cooperating with PN, while party secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan said on Oct 15 that the party was still gathering feedback regarding the matter.
Dr Zahid also said on Sunday (Oct 17) that the selection of Umno candidates would be decided together with deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan and vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is also the Prime Minister.
Political and economic analyst Oh Ei Sun also gave a similar view, saying that Umno is likely to gain the upper hand in the state polls, but it has to choose its allies wisely.
He said Melaka Umno was presently divided between different factions, and candidates chosen to represent the party in the state election must be able to unite Umno.
"If they don't work together, the chances of victory will be smaller," he said.
At the same time, Dr Oh said the best way to choose a candidate to represent Umno was to hold an internal party election.
"This will ensure the candidate is a local boy and more popular than somebody chosen by the central leadership," he added.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) political analyst Professor Sivamurugan Pandian said Umno's new election candidate selection process would be seen as being above board as candidates were no longer solely decided by the party president.
"This methodology will be seen as more open and transparent as the selection will be based on the committee's recommendation," he said.
Prof Sivamurugan said candidates would play an important factor in the upcoming Melaka state polls and the three Umno leaders must decide wisely.
"This is to avoid internal sabotage and favouritism. A win-win solution should be the dominant interest for all three," he said.
He explained that the change in Umno's candidate selection process was probably due to the current political developments, as Mohamad is also Umno's election director and Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri is the newly-appointed Prime Minister.
"At the same time, Zahid will be away (in Germany) to get treatment. So this could be the arrangement," he noted.
Nevertheless, he believed that Dr Zahid's position as Umno president was unaffected.
"I still believe Ahmad Zahid will have the upper hand to decide as president. Even if he rejects, he will have to justify to others as well," Prof Sivamurugan added.
Universiti Malaya's Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the new Umno candidate selection process has come about because the Umno president isn't the prime minister.
"This is a new normal as party presidents are no longer the prime minister," he said.
As he argued that Dr Zahid's powers as party president could be eroded, Prof Awang Azman said the new candidate selection process was a better mechanism to choose candidates to take on the election.
"It is a better system compared with the previous mechanism, where the party president is given sole powers to determine the best candidate to represent Umno in the election," he said.
Before the dissolution of the 28-seat Melaka state assembly, Umno had 13 seats, followed by Bersatu's two, and two Independents (Rembia assemblyman Datuk Muhammad Jailani Khamis and Pengkalan Batu assemblyman Datuk Norhizam Hassan Baktee).
The state government collapsed after Melaka's former chief minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron announced that he and three other assemblymen - Pantai Kundor's Datuk Nor Azman Hassan (Umno), Telok Mas' Noor Effandi Ahmad (Bersatu) and Norhizam - withdrew their support for chief minister Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali.
The Opposition is made up of seven assemblymen from Democratic Action Party, two from Parti Keadilan Rakyat and two from Amanah.
All eyes are on seven seats in particular, including the four which assemblymen triggered the political crisis, where political observers anticipate multi-cornered fights.
Melaka state polls will be held on Nov 20 and nomination day will be on Nov 8.