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Analyst moots three-in-one attack to take on Umno-BN

Ahmad Atory Hussain says it would be otherwise impossible to defeat Barisan Nasional.

Teoh Yee Shen
3 minute read
Volunteers put up Barisan Nasional flags in Taman Stulang Laut ahead of the Johor state election in March.
Volunteers put up Barisan Nasional flags in Taman Stulang Laut ahead of the Johor state election in March.

An analyst has suggested that PAS, Bersatu and Pejuang combine forces to face Barisan Nasional (BN) and Umno in the 15th general election (GE15), giving rise to a face-off between the country's biggest Malay parties from both sides of the political divide. 

Ahmad Atory Hussain, a veteran observer of Malay politics, said it would be impossible to defeat BN if PAS and Bersatu, fellow components of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) pact, are not in sync with Gerakan Tanah Air, led by Pejuang chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad. 

"These three parties, along with Pakatan Harapan (PH), see BN as a common threat and enemy," he said. 

"So, for the time being, they might as well put aside their political differences for the sake of national interests." 

Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin previously said that his party was ready to consider cooperating with Pejuang in GE15 if Mahathir was serious about such a scenario. 

However, he added that Pejuang had yet to initiate contact to discuss this possibility. 

Muhyiddin and Mahathir, both one-time Umno members, joined hands to form Bersatu at the height of the 1MDB scandal in 2016. 

Bersatu became a PH component later that year, with Mahathir chosen as the coalition's prime minister candidate for the 14th general election in 2018. 

While Mahathir became prime minister for the second time following PH's historic victory at the polls, he resigned in February 2020, triggering the collapse of the PH government. 

Bersatu subsequently exited PH, with Mahathir and Muhyiddin also parting ways. 

Mahathir, who was removed as Bersatu chairman, went on to form Pejuang while Muhyiddin was appointed as prime minister, a position he held until his own resignation in 2021. 

Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said Mahathir was unlikely to work with Muhyiddin again. 

In any case, he said, Umno was expected to bag the lion's share of votes from the Malay community. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said most conservative Malays would fall back to Umno if they felt that their special position or privileges were under threat. 

"We saw in Johor and Melaka that most of the Malay vote went to Umno," he added. 

In Johor, which held state-level polls in March this year, BN won 40 of the 56 seats in the legislative assembly. 

PN won three while Pejuang, which contested 42 seats, won none. 

At the Melaka election in November last year, meanwhile, BN won 21 of the 28 state seats while PH won five and PN two. 

Oh acknowledged the support for Muhyiddin's image as a fatherly figure which had earned him the nickname "abah", but said even this had played a smaller role in both Melaka and Johor. 

Atory however said Muhyiddin had established a track record for himself through his administration of the country during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"He was toppled not because of his failures or incompetency, but because of a political conspiracy against him," he said, referring to the move by a group of Umno politicians aligned with their president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to withdraw their support for Muhyiddin, resulting in the loss of his fragile majority. 

He was replaced by Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who led the country for a little over a year before announcing the dissolution of Parliament on Oct 10, following heavy pressure from Umno.