KUALA LUMPUR: The Opposition in the country is clearly split and this is helping Prime Minister Najib Razak stay in power.
A Bloomberg report said the Opposition was so fragmented that the Barisan Nasional could likely retain the two seats it won in the last General Election and which are seeing by-elections on June 18.
It said that after the Opposition fielded multiple candidates for some seats in the May 7 Sarawak state elections, splitting the vote and giving the BN a bigger majority, they vowed not to repeat it.
Four weeks later, it said, they were at it again.
Both PAS and Amanah have nominated candidates to contest against the BN in the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar constituencies.
One seat, the report said, was won by Umno in the 2013 general election by just 1.1 per cent in a straight fight and the other by less than 4 per cent in a three-way race that included an independent.
The opposition infighting shows how its alliance has failed to capitalise on gains made in 2013, when it won the popular vote for the first time.
In the aftermath of the 2013 General Election the opposition splintered amid policy differences. That disarray, combined with decisions to compete against each other, was enabling Najib to weather a year-long donation scandal, multiple probes into 1MDB and efforts by Dr Mahathir Mohamad to remove him, the report said.
It quoted Ibrahim Suffian of the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research as saying: “The opposition’s back is already broken. Despite the scandals, there are no practical means for any political backlash to affect Najib because his opponents have become fragmented and ineffective in mobilising the public through electoral means.”
The Bloomberg report said the presence of multiple opposition candidates might skew what would otherwise have been a litmus test of the voter mood on Najib. Confidence among consumers, businesses and investors has faltered amid a slowing economy, global investigations into state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd, and residual public anger over the implementation last year of a goods and services tax.
It said complaints about Najib’s leadership on social media forums and among some Umno chiefs in private have failed to lure voters to the opposition.
“It will split the votes of those who disagree with the current administration,” PAS vice-president Idris Ahmad was quoted as telling reporters on Sunday, commenting on Amanah’s decision to join the race.
“They just don’t learn from past mistakes,” said Faisal S. Hazis, head of the Centre for Asia Studies at the National University of Malaysia, of the opposition. “People are just fed up with the bickering.”
“There’re only two ways to unseat Najib,” Bloomberg quoted Faisal as saying. “One is through Umno which Mahathir failed to do. Second is when a united, cohesive and viable opposition coalition wins the next general election. The second option is not what Mahathir is willing to take.”
“It’s not certain how PAS will reconcile with their former allies,” Ibrahim said, adding that unless they patched up it would be “hopeless” for the opposition.