Time for BN to include multiracial parties

pic by TMR FILE

TODAY, Umno celebrates its 76th anniversary. For better or worse, Umno has been the dominant party in Malaysia since Independence. It was also the lynchpin for Parti Perikatan and its successor, Barisan Nasional (BN), which ruled the country almost uninterrupted, save for about three years in the country’s 64-year-old history.

Events in the past few years have shown that the power-sharing model which BN was founded on is more stable. Just look at the successive “marriage of conveniences” the Opposition tried to forge over the years. Barisan Alternatif, Pakatan Rakyat and the current Pakatan Harapan have proven to be unstable. Even Perikatan Nasional is unlikely to last beyond the next general election (GE).

I am quite certain that BN will win handsomely in the next GE, going by its performance during the Malacca and Johor elections. It didn’t help that the Opposition is deeply fractured as the respective leaders in the bloc vie to be the next prime minister.

As we come to terms with this (harsh?) reality of the Umno-led BN’s resurgence, we need to ask ourselves if the coalition’s current model is the way to go. We all have a stake in the answer to this question considering BN is all but certain to return to Putrajaya come the next poll, which could be called as early as this August.

Today’s BN is a pale shadow of its former self. It comprises only four parties — Umno, MCA, MIC and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah. Before the 2018 GE, there were 13, but they quickly ditched a sinking ship when the coalition was battered in the polls.

Of the four political parties, the first three are all race-based parties. The question is, why do we still have parties that are race-based in this day and age? Race-based politics, just like identity politics, is outdated and only serves to drive a wedge between the people in this plural country.

While we have to accept the fact that Umno, MCA and MIC will likely dominate the coalition in the years to come, it is time the coalition considers promoting a more multi-racial outlook, including accepting multiracial parties into its fold.

In the past, this role in BN was played by Gerakan and the Peoples’ Progressive Party (PPP). Gerakan, which was decimated in the 2018 GE, left BN after the polls. It is now part of Perikatan Nasional. Meanwhile, PPP has all but disappeared from public limelight following an internal tussle.

Having a national-level multiracial party in BN can go a long way in diluting BN’s racially-inclined image. It can also help pave the way for BN to be a multiracial party in the true sense of the word, instead of being composed of different race-based parties.

In fact, having a multiracial party in BN, especially one that truly champions women empowerment, can help to moderate the competing demands of the coalition’s component parties, and come up with cogent and forward-looking race-blind policies much needed in this era of globalisation.

It is time the top BN leadership seriously consider expanding the coalition’s membership to include multiracial party or parties. This will certainly speed up BN’s rejuvenation process.

Wong Liong Kim

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.