BARISAN Nasional may not be the best at governing, but its long track record and consistency in running the country should be reason enough for the 13-member coalition to win the support of voters in the next election, a federal minister said.
Salleh Said Keruak, a senior leader from Umno, the lynchpin of the BN coalition, said the reason why BN would continue being the better option for governing the country was because of its policies, which had a clear direction.
“I’m not saying we are the best, but we are the only alternative left. BN is a coalition that has proven its ability to unite the people and develop the country.
“The policies are clear and in line with the demand of the people. BN prioritises the country’s political stability for a brighter future.
"Other parties that are competing with BN are busy politicking and only focus on their political goals,” the communications and multimedia minister said in an interview with The Malaysian Insight.
Salleh said BN was “relying on our track record and our future plans”.
“That is what we want to offer the people, that we are a responsible party that will help determine the stability, harmony and choose the middle path to develop our country. We go for politics of moderation,” the Sabahan said.
BN is one of the world’s longest-ruling coalitions, having ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957.
Salleh acknowledged that a split in the opposition, in the form of Islamist party PAS and Pakatan Harapan not cooperating with each other, would benefit the government, but BN was confident of winning, regardless.
“Maybe, but we are going into the election as a team. We don’t depend on a split in the opposition. We want healthy competition."
Salleh said that Malay support would mostly go to either Umno or PAS despite the emergence of new Malay-based parties like Bersatu and Amanah.
“There are many parties catering to Malays, but I’m confident that they are still with Umno and PAS supporters still with PAS.”
Below are excerpts from the interview:
Question: How does Bersatu’s presence in Malaysian politics affect BN? How will BN fare in the 14th General Election with Bersatu in the picture?
Salleh: I don’t see any problems for BN to win the next general election because, for me, we have succeeded in explaining the issues raised by the opposition. And we will continue with our efforts to implement our policies, and approach people from all walks of life.
And it is normal that various issues are raised when the general election is near. Every party will try to attract voters to be with them, and it is not wrong in our democratic system. But we have to believe that the people are matured and can evaluate which party should be chosen to rule.
The opposition can’t even decide who is their prime ministerial candidate. They cannot even properly structure their parties. We will continue explaining to the people about the issues raised and we are confident that a majority of the people are with us.
Q: Political analysts and surveys are predicting that BN will win if three-cornered fights happen between BN, PH and PAS.
Salleh: Those are only their studies, but we are preparing ourselves, regardless if there are straight fights or three-cornered fights. That (multi-cornered fights) is not our main consideration in the coming election. We are relying on our track record and future plans.
Q: Are you confident that BN can gain back a two-thirds majority in GE14?
Salleh: We are working towards winning as many seats as we can, and nothing is impossible. The people will decide. We are working on that.
Q: Dr Mahathir Mohamad claimed that Prime Minister Najib Razak will do anything to ensure he wins including declaring an emergency. Your thoughts on this?
Salleh: That’s just an assumption. During his days, there was the Internal Security Act (ISA). Now, we no longer have ISA. He is free to speak as he pleases.
Q: Dr Mahathir also claimed that Sabah is no longer a fixed-deposit for BN. He is also confident of winning half of the parliamentary seats in Sabah. He also wants to forge cooperation with Sabah-based political parties to reduce the domination of peninsular parties.
Salleh: That's Dr Mahathir with his presumptions. It will not happen. God willing, BN will still win big in Sabah because generally the people of Sabah are satisfied with BN’s achievements. We practise “development politics”.
He (Dr Mahathir) was the one who brought Umno to Sabah and he didn’t say anything at that time. He was the one who spread (Umno). Now he doesn’t say that. He is not consistent.
The cooperation with local parties is most probably with Shafie Apdal (former Umno vice-president who formed Warisan). I’m puzzled with his statement about local-based parties as it was him who brought Umno to Sabah and it wasn’t an issue (at that time). The issue is not local or national parties. What’s important is the party’s ability to bring development to Sabah and unite the people.
Q: Are Sabah-based parties a threat to BN?
Salleh: It’s normal to have competition in politics. Everyone is trying to gain influence and it’s up to the Sabahans. Generally, I believe they are still with us.
Q: When Dr Mahathir verbally attacked Abdullah Badawi in the run-up to the 2008 election, BN lost its two-thirds majority. Now, Dr Mahathir has formed a new party, will this be the downfall of BN?
Salleh: For me, we practise a political-party system, we prioritise party and not individuals because it is the party that is able to form governments. And if we look at the history of Umno or BN, there were many turbulent times, but the people are still with Umno.
We have to ensure there is a healthy competition. We cannot be too emotional and it is everyone’s right to defend their policies. At the end, the people will make the evaluation and BN’s record is open to the public to be judged.
Q: What makes you say DAP is the dominant party in the opposition when they don’t even have many representatives in PH’s presidential council line-up?
Salleh: They are the dominant party, due to the number of seats (it has). Like Umno in BN, and in PH, it’s DAP. But it’s strange, right, that DAP doesn’t have many representatives in the PH structure?
Q: About the split in the Malay community. How strong is Bersatu's influence on Malays?
Salleh: Yes, there are many efforts to split the Malays. It was a lot back then, but generally, Malays are still with Umno and PAS. And based on election records, Malays are either with Umno or PAS. (Bersatu’s influence) is still not proven. The platform Bersatu uses now is DAP.
Q: Do Umno and PAS supporters need to unite for Malay votes?
Salleh: Voter’s choice is a secret and it’s up to the voters to decide. We can convince them or persuade them to choose the respective party’s candidates but at the end, the power is in their hands.
Q: There is talk that voters, especially young voters, want to boycott the general election because they don’t have much option. Your view on this?
Salleh: We ask the voters, especially young voters to come out in numbers. This is their responsibility, their right. They are responsible in determining the country’s leadership. Don’t boycott. Our party is always engaged with young people.
Q: How do you engage with young people?
Salleh: What do the young people want? What’s important is to provide jobs for young people. Second, is to provide economic opportunity and explain to them what we are doing now is to provide these two, employment and economic opportunities.
When there is economic growth, there will be investments coming to Malaysia that will generate employment. And we convince them that this party is responsible for doing so. The opposition is caught up in too much politics and unclear policies. – September 10, 2017.