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Political analysts: Bersatu’s bid to win with a ‘grand’ coalition unlikely to succeed

06 Apr 2021 / 10:26 H.

PETALING JAYA: A grand coalition of small parties will make little headway in the Malaysian political landscape, even if they share similar ideals.

On the other hand, if there are enough of them to win a few seats each, collectively they can become kingmakers, according to several analysts theSun spoke to.

One of them, Khoo Kay Peng, said the political scenario in the country had developed in such a way that any coalition will need a dominant party to be its backbone and to provide leadership.

“Umno was such a party, when it led Barisan Nasional (BN) until its downfall in the 2018 general election,” he said.

Khoo was commenting on an announcement that Perikatan Nasional (PN) is developing a big coalition of parties to help Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) win and stay in power.

Pahang PN chairman Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who made the announcement on Saturday, said the coalition, to be led by Bersatu president and Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, will unite the people “fairly, justly, inclusively and harmoniously” in a new political mould.

Khoo said apart from Umno, the other parties that have the clout to lead a coalition are PKR and the DAP.

Nonetheless, he said, neither of them, like Umno, will be able to form a government on its own.

“Political parties will have to work with one another if they want to form a government after the next general election,” Khoo said. “Bersatu knows the reality is that it needs to work with others too.”

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Dr Azmi Hassan said the three main players in the political scene now are PN, BN and Pakatan Harapan (PH). “It will be difficult to form a government without at least one of these three entities,” he told theSun.

He pointed out that small parties such as the MIC no longer have the clout nor the influence to make a lot of difference.

He said each of the three coalitions also needs an “anchor” party to lead the charge. “The smaller parties that will eventually join this coalition will offer very minimal influence,” he said.

“I do not agree with Saifuddin’s argument that there should not be a dominant party (in a coalition). A dominant party is not necessarily one that controls everything. It is a strong party that can lead,” he said.

Azmi said Bersatu is looking to build a “grand coalition” most likely because Umno has cut ties with it.

“But if Umno and PAS join hands with Bersatu in the next general election, then we will have a grand coalition,” he added. “Together, these three parties can win enough seats to form the next government.

Senior fellow at the Malaysian Council of Professors Dr Jeniri Amir said it is Bersatu’s hope that each of the smaller parties could win “two or three seats” of their own that will take the coalition beyond the minimum required to form the government.

Unlike Khoo and Azmi, Jeniri would not dismiss the role small parties can play in changing the political landscape.

“Two or three seats can make all the difference in determining which coalition has the majority to form a government,” he said.

Jeniri said the overall strategy of any party is to have a strong majority. “But with what we have seen in the 14th general election, (GE14) we know this will not happen,” he said.

He said that before GE14, many parties were subservient to Umno but now it is no longer the case.

He sees Bersatu’s move to form a grand coalition as the way to help it take on Umno and to form the government after the polls.

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