COMMENTARY, Feb 22 — Uncertainty has hit Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), the dominant party in Perikatan Nasional (PN), as it waits for moves by Barisan Nasional (BN), which is seemingly playing a “poker game”.
BN is now playing the waiting game as it dropped hints — which is neither yes nor no — about working together with Bersatu in the coming general election.
Like it or not, Bersatu is in a “Catch-22” situation as it weighs its chances in the general election without Umno, the backbone of BN, as working with PAS alone will not provide the required numbers to form a government, much less stay dominant.
The party leaders cannot also copy the arrangement from the Sabah election as the political situation and minds of the Malays are totally different from that of Sabahans.
It is now uncertain of its chances, with BN playing its game. An air of uncertainty lingers as Bersatu leaders analyse their options. How many seats can the party contest? Which party election machinery Bersatu can utilise, as BN’s machinery cannot be taken for granted? Is PAS with it or half-hearted? What about a manifesto? And so on.
Bersatu is the dominant party in the ruling PN as it is the party of Prime Minister Tan Sri MuhyiddinYassin who replaced Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who quit end of February last year, and not due to its high number of parliamentary seats or more than other parties in the coalition.
It came out dominant during the 2018 general election because Dr Mahathir managed to rally the Malay votes for Pakatan Harapan (PH), defeating BN that threw dominant Malay-based Umno out of the mainstream politics for a while.
Umno’s return into mainstream politics in the midst of turbulence has created uncertainty in Bersatu as the party has not really grasped the landscape for its long-term survival in the Malay political ground or the country’s political landscape.
Bersatu catapulted itself into the political undercurrent due to Dr Mahathir’s popularity at that time, when he succeeded in “shooting down” then-Umno president and BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
However, the Malay-based party formed in 2016 failed to penetrate the Malay political minds and, most importantly, the Malay political hearts who have since returned to sympathisinbg with Umno when the latter started playing ‘the victim’ in the ruling coalition.
Bersatu’s mistake was to play the “daddy” role in the coalition, forgetting that Malay politics is about grassroots and rural-based needs, although at present nearly half the Malay voters are based in suburban and urban areas.
The party was dependent on Umno and PAS for its dominance in the coalition and the party leaders have “forgotten” to strengthen its base — in short preparing the second echelon and creating followers and supporters at divisions level.
The party is now uncertain of its performance in the coming general election as its base is not solid and, worse, it does not have a wide base to talk about the number of seats it has confidence in winning.
Despite the leaders’ confidence in facing the general election, the reality on the ground may be out of their expectations, no matter how the party tries to strategise to maximise its strength.
Bersatu’s weaknesses are that there are no known candidates besides the ones who left BN and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) to join it, which made up the numbers Bersatu has now.
But for the coming general election, these numbers may be reduced or the voters may abandon the MPs as these MPs left their original parties without bringing their supporters and followers.
The coming general election is going to be tough for them to retain their seats as they not only have a lack of supporters, they are also devoid of election machinery.
The party leadership line-up comprises intellectuals who followed Dr Mahathir when it was first formed, who do not have a political base and are not politicians. Politicians know how to rally support and followers through political ways.
Not wanting to deny the position, the party leaders seem to have problems in choosing candidates as it does not have politicians — only academics.
Fielding them in the election may not be wise but the party has no choice, which actually puts in uncertainty.
Thus, Bersatu has now to find other means or, to cut it short, hang the carrot for BN.
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