BY CLARA CHOOI
ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — Barisan Nasional (BN) has no choice but to throw its weight behind Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who will likely survive his second term as prime minister due to a lack of alternative, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said.
Dr Mahathir made the remark in a report on international business wire Bloomberg yesterday, appearing again to bat for Team Najib at a time when the beleaguered prime minister is struggling to revive a wounded BN.
“I think the party will support him because of a lack of an alternative,” the 87-year-old Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying in Tokyo during a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
Najib led BN back to power in Election 2013 but the once all-powerful ruling pact bled at the ballot boxes, failing in its bid to win back the country’s richest and most industrialised state of Selangor and recapture the coveted two-thirds parliamentary majority it first lost in the 2008 polls.
Dr Mahathir’s remarks are notable as it had been his camp that was baying for the exclusion of a few key Umno leaders from the present Cabinet including Khairy Jamaluddin and Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.
Furthermore, despite having extended BN’s rule, Najib has to come to terms with the pact’s even greater loss of support from the Chinese and the urban middle to upper class, which had created an even more divided Malaysia.
He was the first to coin the term “Chinese tsunami” when characterising BN’s losses, earning widespread insult later for purportedly pitting the Chinese against the Malays.
In its report, Bloomberg agreed to the sensitivities surrounding the topic, reminding of the 1969 race riots that saw hundreds killed.
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But this “Chinese tsunami” description later became a recurring theme for Umno-owned media, leading to Utusan Malaysia’s banner headline “Apa lagi Cina Mau?”
The Umno-owned daily has also been defensive about its stance against the Chinese community, gathering a number of little-known groups and Malay activists to defend and run down critics, including AirAsia X chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani.
Quoting Dr Mahathir, Bloomberg wrote that the Electon 2013 results had shown that Malaysia has become more divided than unified.
“We are still striving to bring the races together,” he was quoted saying, adding that that it was because of this “racial polarisation” that Najib could not get the Chinese votes.
The business wire added that as the margin of victory for BN this time had been even lower than the 2008 election, which later led to the stepping down of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Najib could face a leadership challenge when Umno holds its assembly later this year.
“Deputy Prime Minister (Tan Sri) Muhyiddin Yassin is potentially next in line,” Bloomberg said.
The mood in Putrajaya post polls has been one of despondency with incessant talk of the alleged betrayal by Chinese and non-Malay voters the key topic among BN leaders, even as Najib rally support for his leadership.
Many believe that these leaders should stop thinking or talking so, because it poisons the post-election discourse. In coffee-shops and boardrooms, the chattering classes say such talk will further split a country already divided by class and income.
Several snap analyses had shown that most of the voters cast their ballots largely marked by national issues, location, income levels, age groups rather than the simplistic view that a “Chinese Tsunami” further eroded BN’s support.
“There are leaders who are in a group think mode, amplifying among themselves that the Chinese betrayed BN, not the other races. They still think in terms of race,” said a politician returning from the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya.
A quick survey showed that apart from losing the Chinese vote, BN also lost a fair number of Malay votes in its bastion and birthplace Johor, Kelantan, Selangor and Terengganu.
Several pollsters agreed, saying they were waiting for detailed results to work out support by each community or by class, location and age group. “The results are spotty right now but there has been gains and losses in terms of votes by any particular community,” said a pollster.
Independent online research house PoliTweet.org pointed out that PR won in 59 mixed-race federal seats, almost double its 30 wins in Chinese-majority seats in Election 2013, debunking BN’s claim of a “Chinese Tsunami”.
Politweet also said the ruling BN gained most of its votes from rural federal seats while PR increased its support from urban and semi-urban areas in the South-east Asian nation chasing developed nation status by 2020.
“BN represents the rural majority and can retain power with rural and semi-urban seats alone. This election highlighted PR’s weak areas which are rural seats, Bumiputra Sabah majority and Bumiputra Sarawak majority seats,” said the report, which can be found on PoliTweet’s official blog.
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