Bersatu joining Muafakat: A necessary formality?

By Joshua Wu Kai-Ming

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) joining Muafakat Nasional (MN) appears to be mere formality as Bersatu, Umno, PAS and parties from Sabah and Sarawak informally form the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

The PN government, however, even with the inclusion of Umno and PAS, only has a precarious 2-3 seats majority in the House of Representatives.

When Umno announced that it would not become part of PN should the informal coalition be registered, it then became necessary for Bersatu to formally align itself with Umno and PAS in order to remain a part of the government.

Bersatu is the weakest of the three.

It cannot be disputed that Umno and PAS have strong grassroots support. This is evidenced by, for example, the high turnouts in rallies organised by Umno and/or PAS such as the Anti-ICERD rally.

The same, however, cannot be said about Bersatu. A fact stated recently by Johor Umno’s deputy chief.

Bersatu, being a relatively new national party, experienced exponential growth in its first few years largely due to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir, a seasoned politician and a former Prime Minister, commands great respect and support amongst the masses.

When Mahathir left Bersatu, an exodus soon ensued. Since his departure from Bersatu, Mahathir has announced the setting up of the Party of Homeland’s Fighters (Pejuang).

Various Bersatu branches have since been dissolved due to lack of members.

Bersatu will likely lose out when it comes to seat negotiations

In the Pakatan Harapan coalition, Bersatu played Umno’s role in Barisan Nasional. However, in MN, Bersatu targets the same voter base as Umno and to a large extent, PAS.

In view of its weaker grassroots support, Bersatu does not have the upper hand when it comes to seat negotiations.

In addition, in the 14th General Election (GE14), Bersatu’s Members of Parliament (MPs) contested as a member of the PH coalition under Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) banner. Since then, much has changed.

In the event Bersatu MPs are fielded in the same constituency, newer MPs may not succeed in retaining their seats.

For example, in the Alor Gajah parliamentary seat, Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof won by a majority of 6,980 votes. Assuming the votes are maintained along coalition lines, PH’s candidate could defeat MN’s candidate even if the latter is the incumbent himself.

There were also three way (or more) fights in certain seats because BN and PAS were still opposing one another. If MN were to agree to field a single candidate, Bersatu will likely have to be the one to give way.

For example, in GE14, Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun, the current Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, contested in the Titiwangsa parliamentary seat and obtained 23,840 votes. Her opponent from BN obtained 19,701 votes while her opponent from PAS obtained 6,845 votes.

In the context of the Titiwangsa parliamentary seat, Umno is be able to put forth a strong case that its candidate should be fielded as MN’s sole candidate in the 15th General Election seeing as they have greater support there compared to Bersatu (which relied on votes by PH’s supporters) and PAS.

Taking into account all of the above, Bersatu’s decision to leave PH and join forces with Umno and PAS may be the cause of its downfall.

Joshua Wu Kai-Ming is an advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.

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