Commentary: The bewildering game of Malaysian politics, the rot within the Barisan Nasional

FILE PHOTO: Barisan Nasional flags hang at a public housing estate in Kuala Lumpur

PENANG: And so it finally happened. Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional (BN), who lost the majority vote but won the elections in 2013 now loses the power it had held since independence.

How could it fail so badly? It had the powers of incumbency with which it could move goalposts whenever it needed to.

It had the means and a record of buying up the referee, the players and the linesmen. And it had endless yellow and red cards that it happily used to send its opponents off the field.

Seriously, it effectively owned the stadium along with the sports channels covering the game as well.

So wherein lay its weaknesses in the general elections of 2018?

The biggest flaw, most analysts would agree, was its president, Prime Minister Najib Razak, the leader of UMNO, which is the heart and soul of the coalition.

Tainted by suspicions of wrongdoing since long before he became Prime Minister following a coup against Abdullah Badawi in 2009, his term in office continued to be plagued by serious scandals such the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, and the 1MDB affair which was investigated by a list of countries, including the US, Switzerland and Singapore.

When Najib saw in the results of the 2013 elections that he could not win back the Chinese Malaysian community, he appeared to give up on the middle ground — something that is rather irrational in a multiracial country like Malaysia — and began courting the more extreme elements among Malay nationalists and Islamists.

This modus operandi seemed to work though, and it led to the Pakatan Rakyat breaking up.

(dp) Insight Malaysia race and religion 1

IN FULL BATTLE GEAR, MAHATHIR EMERGES

However, in this endless process of political manipulations, he brought a new player into the game against him — the retired long-term Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. At which point exactly Mahathir ushered himself back into the game is no longer really important.

What is important is that Mahathir, though 92 years of age, came out in full battle gear, swearing to dislodge Najib and to bring him to justice for…

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