Barisan Nasional

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"The Barisan Nasional government is worse than pirates of old, finding new ways to take the people's hard-earned money."  —  Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (11 October 2013) [1]
"This is my first year in parliament and, watching at close quarters, seeing how the BN elected representatives defend what essentially is a business plan to fleece the public."  —  Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz (4 November 2013) [2]
"On behalf of the government, I record the highest appreciation to the people of Malaysia, especially the Malay and Bumiputra communities, who had supported, given their mandate and trust to Barisan Nasional at the 13th General Election... to continue the leadership of the nation."  —  Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak (14 September 2013) [3]
"Barisan Nasional, which created a national communal paradigm of one party for each race and each person to his own race-party, is now seeing that concept used against itself."  —  The Malaysian Insider, referring to the Kajang by-election campaign (15 March 2014) [4]
Logo of the Barisan Nasional
Component Parties
Component Parties of the
Barisan Nasional
(as of December 2008)
  1. United Malays National Organisation (UMNO)
  2. Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)
  3. Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC)
  4. Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (GERAKAN)
  5. People's Progressive Party (PPP)
  6. Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu
  7. Sarawak United Peoples' Party (SUPP)
  8. Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS)
  9. Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
  10. Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS)
  11. United Pasokmomogun Kadazan-
    dusun Murut Organisation
  12. Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP)
  13. Sarawak People's Party (SPP)

Barisan Nasional (Malay for National Front) is a major political coalition in Malaysia that was formed in 1973 as the successor to the Alliance Party. Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, the nation's capital, it has been Malaysia's ruling political party since independence. However, in the 2008 general elections, the Barisan Nasional was delivered a severe political blow when it lost its traditional two thirds-majority in Parliament since independence, losing five out of 13 states and also the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur to Pakatan Rakyat, a loose alliance of opposition parties.

The Barisan Nasional defines itself as "a confederation of political parties". As of December 2008, there are 13 component parties within the Barisan Nasional, with the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) as its backbone. Each component party operates to all intents and purposes as a separate party, save that of elections. The vast majority of Barisan Nasional's seats during elections, however, are still allocated to the three original members of the Alliance Party, viz. UMNO, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

2.  Background: The Barisan Nasional was formed as a result of the relatively poor showing of the Alliance Party in the 1969 general election, Malaysia's third since independence. In the aftermath of the racial riots on May 13 that year, Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak overthrew the Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, and ruled by decree. In January 1973, he set up the enlarged Barisan Nasional, incorporating several opposition parties, to replace the Alliance in preparation for the general election of 1974. Based on newly declassified documents at the Public Records Office in London, the May 13 Incident had been intentionally started by the "ascendent state capitalist class" in UMNO as a coup d'etat to topple the Tunku from power.[5][6]

3.  Criticisms:

  • Racial polarization: The Barisan Nasional is often seen as one of the main causes as to why Malaysia's multiracial society remain unintegrated. The racial-based party coalition is the core to the other racial-based organizations in the country and race-based societies are even encouraged at school levels. The ultimate barrier to national integration is the division of Malaysian society into what is termed bumiputera ("sons of the soil", comprising mainly Malays) and non-Bumiputera (mainly Chinese and Indian). In 1971, the Barisan Nasional, under Tun Abdul Razak, promulgated the New Economic Policy (NEP) as an affirmative action to eliminate the identification of ethnicity with economic function. The initial target was to move the ratio of economic ownership in Malaysia from a 2.4:33:63 ratio of bumiputeras, other Malaysians, and foreigner ownership to a 30:40:30 ratio. Now that a Universiti Malaya report released in 2002 found that Bumiputera equity had hit the NEP target in 1992,[7] UMNO leaders are fighting to have the NEP extended indefinitely under the name of Ketuanan Melayu  (Malay for "Malay supremacy" or Malay "dominance"). Greed knows no bounds, notwithstanding that Islam is the official religion of the country.
  • Establishment of a one-party state: In a speech on 27 April 1972, the then DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka Lim Kit Siang said: "The Alliance (the predecessor of the Barisan Nasional) has embarked on a new political strategy — and we can discern a tendency towards the establishment of a one-party state through the elimination of all opposition parties, either by absorption or suppression... Alliance strategists are working on the mistaken premise that if they absorb an opposition party, they would also be able to secure the political support and following of the opposition party being absorbed. But what invariably happens in such a case is that the opposition party being absorbed loses all its public support and following, unless the deep-seated economic, political, social, and culture grievances are resolved... There are a variety of reasons why Opposition leaders and members defect to the ruling party. There are firstly the opportunists, who use opposition politics as a lever to catapult themselves into the attention of the ruling party, and offer themselves to be bought over at a handsome price. This art is most perfected in the state of Sabah, where we often read of fly-by-night Opposition parties being formed and very soon after, disbanded. Others do not have firm political convictions, or the stamina for a long political struggle. Others are dazzled by the glitter of office and glory. Yet others may be cowed and intimidated by the strong-armed tactics of the government." [8]
  • UMNO's treatment of BN component parties:
  • Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA): As a senior Cabinet Minister and leader of the 2nd largest Barisan Nasional component party, MCA President Ling Liong Sik was unable to get Cabinet approval for RM20 million for his party's Langkawi Project which aimed to uplift the standard of education in new villages and other less developed rural areas. According to DAP's Lim Kit Siang, RM20 million is a mere drop in the ocean of the government's annual expenditures for the Education Ministry, which runs into billions of ringgit a year and is something like "petty cash" for senior Cabinet Ministers in their annual allocations.[9] As such, the MCA President's ministerial post is not very much different from that of the most junior Minister with the most inconsequential portfolio.[9]
  • Gerakan: In 1993, DAP's Lim Kit Siang exposed his findings that UMNO state assemblymen were getting RM250,000 in constituency development funds per year, while Gerakan state assemblymen were getting only RM30,000 a year.[9]

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