KUALA LUMPUR - The Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has a "fighting chance" of winning back the state of Selangor, and is "tired" of being the opposition there, former Malaysian premier Najib Razak said on Sunday (July 31).
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob called on BN members to close ranks, hinting that the general election may be called soon.
"We must start working as if the election is tomorrow," he was quoted as saying at a one-day BN Selangor convention by the New Straits Times.
Najib, who is the coalition's advisory panel member, conceded that it would be a tough battle in Selangor, but claimed it was possible to convince voters to back BN.
"I don't want to say that we will win. But we have a fighting chance to create the state government here, and that hope is enough," he told a news conference during the convention.
"We have to explain to the Selangor people that the successes that made Selangor an industrial and successful state are due to the efforts made by Barisan," he was quoted as saying by The Star daily.
Selangor is Malaysia's richest state and has been ruled by the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition since 2008. The next general election must be held by September 2023.
"The momentum is on our side - Johor and Melaka, we won. People thought we couldn't win Johor but we went solo and won," added Najib.
BN, which is led by Umno, scored thumping victories in both state elections, forming the state governments with a two-thirds majority.
BN lost federal power at the 2018 General Election, the first time since Malaysia's independence in 1957.
It won two parliamentary seats in Selangor in that election, while PH, now led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, won 20. One BN MP has since defected to join Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
Despite growing disenchantment among the electorate with PH based on its lacklustre performance in the last two state elections, analysts say it will not be easy for BN to retake Selangor.
Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun told The Straits Times that it would be "a long shot".
"Selangor is more or less a socio-economically developed state, with most voters being progressive and well exposed to some of the best practices in governance around the world.
"It is rather unlikely that they would like to revert to the regressive and patronising ways of BN," he said.
Selangor BN chairman Noh Omar said on Sunday that while there were different views on whether polls should be called earlier or later, what mattered most was ensuring BN wins.
"Being the opposition once is enough," he said, adding that the bitterness of losing federal power has made BN determined to win the next election.
Sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya believes that it is unlikely for BN to take over Selangor unless it has suitable fresh faces.
"It is time for BN Selangor to put forward a Menteri Besar candidate that has integrity,” he said, citing Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz as an example.
Tan Sri Noh announced on Sunday night during the convention's closing ceremony that Datuk Seri Zafrul has been appointed Selangor BN treasurer, confirming a report by The Straits Times.
Mr Zafrul, currently a senator, is tipped to be among the next generation of leaders who will run for Umno in the next polls. He is said to be slated to contest in the coastal district of Kuala Selangor.
Umno is currently led by former deputy premier Zahid Hamidi, who is 69. His deputy Mohamad Hasan is 66, while Najib, 69, is still widely influential in the party.
Both Zahid and Najib are currently fighting a slew of corruption charges in court.