KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 — Barisan Nasional (BN) will have a tough time scoring a two-thirds majority win in the next general election due to the continued snubbing of the ruling coalition by urban voters.
Analysts believe that the recently-concluded Sarawak election will also have a spillover effect on the possible outcome of the upcoming national polls, but differ as to when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will call for it.
While some political pundits believe that Najib will call for elections by year end, others say that the rise in urban vote swing towards Pakatan Rakyat (PR) as well as anti-Taib (Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud) sentiments would be reason enough for Najib to delay national polls until early 2012.
"It is going to be difficult for Barisan Nasional to achieve a two-thirds majority," Dr Agus Yusoff told The Malaysian Insider today.
"Urban voters, particularly non-Malays, have voted against BN, as seen in Sarawak... this will have a big implication on BN, the effect of urban discontent towards BN can have a spillover effect in rural areas, given time," said the university lecturer.
BN won 55 out of the 71 seats in the Sarawak assembly, down from 63 it held when the assembly was dissolved last month. The DAP doubled its presence to 12 seats while PKR tripled its representation to three despite contesting 49 seats. An independent also took a seat.
In Election 2008, PR won a total of 82 out of 222 federal seats, with the DAP winning 28 seats, mainly in urban areas where there are large communities of Chinese, who decided to throw out BN’s lawmakers for the opposition party’s representatives.
The developments in the country within the next few months remain crucial, Agus cautioned, as "anything drastic" could change the voting trend, either in favour or against the ruling coalition.
"The economy is important... when the country is stable and its people are comfortable, then the government can feel safe.
"But in Sarawak, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud's insistence in not stepping down has affected Chinese votes for BN, if this remains BN will be affected further," said Agus.
BN retained its two-thirds majority in the Sarawak state assembly or 75 per cent of the seats in the Sarawak legislature. Initial estimates showed that BN’s popular vote went down from 62.93 per cent in the 2006 state election to 55.24 per cent in last weekend's polling.
PR, mainly the DAP, mounted a successful anti-Taib campaign, engaging in massive ceramahs attended by thousands of Sarawakians.
This in turn resulted in BN losing more urban seats compared to previous state elections.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has also added pressure on Taib, telling him to do the “needful”, while campaigning in Malay/Melanau areas.
Taib has said he will go in “two or three” years or “midway” into his new term, but stopped short of providing a firm date.
UKM lecturer Professor Shamsul Adabi Mamat chose to remain optimistic about BN's electoral chances.
The analyst feels that the ruling coalition should not be fixated with obtaining a two-thirds win.
Shamsul said a "comfortable majority" win scenario would suffice, where BN wins more than half of the 222 parliamentary seats but would fall short of the desired two-thirds.
"A comfortable majority win is enough, two-thirds is not so important," Shamsul told The Malaysian Insider.
He said that as long as BN had the rural votes, which made up the majority of the federal electorate, it should not be too worried about maintaining power.
"Yes, two-thirds is the focus, but BN needs to know that even a comfortable majority win is a huge victory.
"We live in interesting times, in a society with different cultures, differences of opinions, so not everyone may agree on everything," he said.
Shamsul believes that judging by BN's performance right now, Najib will call for national polls by the end of this year.
"A general election must be held as soon as possible... BN has the momentum right now with the Sarawak win. I think Najib realises this and would know how to capitalise this.
"My guess is that Najib will call for polls by the end of this year," said Shamsul.