PN could yet succeed despite tough first year

Right moves need to be made to strengthen position and shake ‘backdoor’ stigma, say analysts

02 Mar 2021 / 10:01 H.

PETALING JAYA: The going has been tough for Perikatan Nasional (PN) in its first year in Putrajaya, but that could change if it makes the right moves, according to political analysts.

Speaking to theSun yesterday in conjunction with the first anniversary of the coalition’s ascent to power, they said that while PN had to contend with the “backdoor government” label for a year, it could still strengthen its position as the ruling coalition.

University Malaya Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said that while it would be difficult to shake off the stigma, the decision by two Pakatan Harapan (PH) MPs to join ranks with PN recently was a signal that it was open to the voices of “other races”.

The PN coalition, which comprises Barisan Nasional (BN), PAS and Bersatu, has always been seen as Malay-centric. MCA and MIC, which are part of BN, account for only a small percentage of seats in the Dewan Rakyat.

Recently, Julau MP Larry Sng Wei Shien and his Tebrau colleague Steven Choong Shiau Yoon pledged their support to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. Both, who were PKR members, have been sacked from the party.

“There is still room for improvement and PN will need to strengthen its position as the ruling coalition, and it is not too late,” Awang Azman said.

This could be a turning point for PN as it has shown that it can garner the support of the Malay majority as well as the backing of the smaller ethnic groups, he said.

“The biggest challenge for the PN government is to reverse the economic setbacks. This will help it gain the people’s trust, given that many have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Awang Azman said institutional reforms need to be implemented to win over people in the next general election.

“For a start, a new legislation on political funding must be put in place to prevent a trust deficit between the government and the rakyat.”

Political scientist Dr Wong Chin Huat observed that it had been tough to govern during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Policies must be well thought out, consistent and multi-partisan.”

He said that this is possible even for a minority government, as has been demonstrated in New Zealand.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Arden headed a minority government during her first term in office but she has been able to introduce strong policies during extraordinary times,” Wong said.

But while the opportunity is there for PN to show its mettle, some analysts argue that the coalition had yet to show that it is capable.

Wong felt that the government had performed poorly during the Covid-19 pandemic and in managing the economy.

“Its reluctance to strike a multi-partisan deal and agree to a ceasefire amid the pandemic was an opportunity lost.”

Another analyst who shared the same sentiment is Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

He noted that while the people were required to observe tough measures to help curb the spread of Covid-19, senior leaders had been exempted from those rules. “That is very negative.”

Oh said the level of competency in Covid-19 response was largely attributable to the private sector and civil service.

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