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Barisan Nasional (Malay for National Front; commonly abbreviated as BN) is a major political coalition in Malaysiamarker. Formed in 1973 as the successor to the Alliance (Perikatan), it has been Malaysia's ruling political party since independence. The coalition's headquarters is located in the nation's capital, Kuala Lumpurmarker.

Barisan Nasional holds several seats in every state in Malaysia, but was delivered a severe political blow in the aftermath of the 2008 general elections when it formed the majority in 8 out of 13 States, with the exceptions being Kelantanmarker, Kedahmarker, Penangmarker, Perakmarker (though this is disputed) and Selangormarker, all of which fell to Pakatan Rakyat, a loose alliance of opposition parties. The Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpurmarker is also under opposition control, led by the Democratic Action Party.


The vast majority of Barisan Nasional's seats are held by its three largest race-based parties — the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) — each of which is sectarian in nature, though officially supporting racial harmony. In the view of some scholars,

Although both the Alliance and Barisan Nasional registered themselves as political parties, membership was only possible indirectly through one of the constituent parties. In the Alliance, one could hold direct membership, but this was abolished with the formation of the Barisan Nasional. The Barisan Nasional defines itself as "a confederation of political parties which subscribe to the objects of the Barisan Nasional". Although in elections, all candidates stand under the Barisan Nasional symbol, and there is a Barisan Nasional manifesto, each individual constituent party also issues its own manifesto, and there is intra-coalition competition for seats prior to nomination day.

As of August 2009, Barisan Nasional's member parties are:

Party loyalty in Parliament

In 2005, the issue of voting along party lines was brought up when two Barisan National Members of Parliament (MPs), Bung Moktar Radin and Mohamed Aziz, supported a motion by Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) to refer International Trade and Industry Ministry secretary Sidek Hassan to the Committee of Privileges. Deputy Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak, who is also the BN whip in the Dewan Rakyat (lower house of Parliament) had the two MPs referred to the Cabinet for breaking the BN policy of never voting for motions proposed by the opposition. According to Najib, the two MPs apologised for their actions once informed of their mistake. Eventually, the Cabinet settled on a reprimand and with no further action taken.

In the aftermath of the general election held on March 8 2008, there were calls from component parties from Sabah and Sarawak for more autonomy from the federal government.

Recently the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) one of the component parties and its President Yong Teck Lee announced on June 18 2008 that the party would file a no-confidence motion in the Dewan Rakyat on June 23 against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, calling on him to step down. The party, criticizing what it described as insensitivity on the part of the government towards issues in Sabah, said that it was taking advantage of a unique "window of opportunity" for the sake of Sabah interests, including autonomy and 20% of oil revenues.
 On June 20, 2008 SAPP won the backing of members, including its top leaders to press ahead with its no-confidence vote against embattled Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The two current SAPP MPs will support any vote of no-confidence against the prime minister in parliament or one of them will move the motion.

The National Front and Racial Polarisation

The National Front is sometimes seen as one of the main cause on why the multiracial society remain unintegrated. The racial based party coalition is the core to the other racial based organisation in the country. Race-based societies are even encouraged at school levels.

Though the UMNO (United Malay National Organisation) led National Front coalition implemented various projects and activities at all levels to strengthen racial integration but as long as racial politics are practiced in Malaysia, there does not seem any real inspiration within the society towards real integration. Also, it is obvious to Malaysians that the component parties of the National Front are completely living in the shadow of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

The ultimate barrier from forming a single party to replace the coalition certainly is the Bumiputera (son of the soil or generally Malays) special rights which being strongly upheld by UMNO even after strong opposition by the non-Bumiputeras (mainly Chinese and Indian). This recently intensified after a government agency recently published a statistic which showed the Bumiputera have achieved the initial 30% economic equity target in the country as outlined in the first New Economic Policy (DEB) in 1971.

The National Front has been the government since the British granted Malaysia independence from British Colonial rule. However, it would appear that any move to dissolve the coalition to form a single party remains at the present time a very difficult task due to strong racial divides in the party system, which is reflective of the general sentiment of Malaysian society.

Barisan Nasional States & Chief Ministers


  1. Rachagan, p. 21.

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