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4:57pm 17/11/2022
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What will the next government look like?
By:Murray Hunter

Intuition, wishful thinking, and polls are predicting that no one coalition will be able to govern on its own.

Thus, Barisan Nasion, Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan will have to garner support from the other groups to govern.

This article looks at what these coalitions would look like as the government in Putrajaya, based on what we already know.

Barisan Nasional

The Barisan Nasional was favorite to snatch government and govern on its own without being hinged to Perikatan Nasional, when the Dewan Rakyat was dissolved.

The shape, ideology and modus operandi of the BN government will very much depend upon its leader.

All BN governments in the past have followed this pattern. Any new BN government will be the same.

We are told Ismail Sabri Yaakob will continue as prime minister. In that case, we would expect more of the same, depending upon who his ministers are.

He will have to pick almost a new team. However, we can be sure the Ismail Sabri government would continue to be bumiputera-orientated in its policy and implementation.

However, we are not sure whether Ismail Sabri will continue. There are doubts, if BN wins.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi may make a play and become prime minister, which would change the modus operandi of the government.

His personal unpopularity may require a compromise candidate like Mat Hasan.

In all probability, a BN government would see continued infighting within Umno. This would destabilize government, just like we have seen over the last two years.

However, there are some very positive things going for the BN.

BN has a comprehensive set of policies to tackle poverty and support the B40. They go much further than PN and PH. This is a radical change towards setting up a needs-based welfare state in an apparent dumping of the New Economic Policy.

To fund this radical change, there is little doubt a BN government would reintroduce GST to fund these poverty eradication policies.

There will also be continued commitment to economic involvement within the economy through GLCs.

One would expect a BN government to continue preferential access to bumiputeras to particular sectors within the economy.

Umno will increase money flow into the economy, but there will be no basic economic reforms.

Perikatan Nasional

Perikatan Nasional is primarily composed of Bersatu and PAS.

It is very unlikely Gerakan will gain any seats. This will make the coalition a completely Malay grouping. And this appears to have gained traction in both the Malay heartlands and semi-urban areas where voters want corrupt-free Malay-Muslim representation.

Muhyiddin Yassin’s rejection of kleptocracy is bringing his Bersatu out of potential oblivion.

PAS has the grassroots machinery which is enabling the coalition to compete.

The wildcard in PN is PAS. PAS in the last few years was more focused on running state governments. However, it now sees a national role for itself, and potentially will be the senior partner in PN.

If this becomes the case, then PAS will demand more influence within the next cabinet. This would logically turn PN into a more hardline government.

However, Muhyiddin is a master of playing to all stakeholders and will need PAS restraint to form any sort of government.

Depending upon the results, the most suitable option for cooperation would be with Umno, if the two coalitions want government.

This in effect means we are back to where we are now, a BN-PN government!

Pakatan Harapan

The third coalition is Pakatan Harapan which appeared to be totally out of the game until Anwar Ibrahim and Rafizi Ramli got their act together and made their party faithful believe they could win.

Pakatan has revived the spirit of reformasi, this time with a batch of candidates who had a short stint as ministers and deputy ministers under Mahathir, and a group of new young candidates.

However, we know from their first stint in government that doing was much harder than talking.

This time there is no Mahathir, there is the long and awaited Anwar Ibrahim.

We know Anwar is a pragmatist over an ideologue, so we won’t see consistency. Decision-making will tend to be what is seen as the popular options.

If we look at how PKR has been run, then we should expect Anwar to be slightly authoritative in his style of government. He will want to satisfy who he believes are important stakeholders.

Anwar has a Malay mind, and sees cultural complexities others don’t consider.

Don’t expect a Pakatan government to be a fast mover. One of the dangers is that some ministers may become too complacent in their new-found positions of authority.

Corruption also started to flow into the Pakatan government before the Sheraton Putsch.

We learned from the Penang government that Pakatan, in particular DAP, is very sensitive to criticism and will attack those who criticize it back. Rather than taking criticism as a public figure, they prefer to take legal actions.

Don’t expect Pakatan to be a totally secular government. Many within PKR and Amanah see a positive place for Islam in government, but not to the extent of BN.

It’s most likely that Pakatan will need another partner to govern. However, there are many reluctant suitors out there that need to cooperate, if a government is to happen.

This is going to be Anwar’s first challenge, should Pakatan have the highest number of seats after the election.

We will know more about how a future Pakatan government will work by the way a coalition is cobbled together.

The great casualty of this election has been the lack of any semblance of Malay unity. Malay division in the ballot box has got us to where we are today.

The key in creating any new government will be developing a sense of inclusion.

(Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 40 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic and researcher. He was an associate professor at Universiti Malaysia Perlis.)

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