The “rough and panicky” manner in which beleaguered Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government hammered in an election reforms proposal has bolstered the case for snap general elections to be held within the next 2 months, rather than the September timeline recently reported by a BN-controlled newspaper.
According to opposition leaders, the way in which the BN lawmakers “exposed their reluctance to clean up the electoral system” has also opened the door wider for Najib to escape from his assurances to the people and his party that the 13th general election or GE-13 will be held soon.
Najib has come under severe fire for putting the nation in limbo due his indecisiveness over the GE-13 date, with many political pundits believing that this was due to his wish to prolong his hold on the premiership.
“What we understand is that he did pick May 26 as a date, and then switched to June 3 but because the King’s Birthday and Gawai Day are also around that weekend, it was postponed again to mid June,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
“For us, we are bracing for GE-13 in mid June. Whether Najib will change his mind again – no one can predict or control. He is more fickle than a girl trying out dresses when it comes to this. But two obvious factors must be considered. One is the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28 and the other is the Umno 66th anniversary during the first 2 weeks of May. If he doesn’t feel confident, there is every chance he will change again.”
Indeed, the announcement by free and fair elections movement Bersih to hold its third rally on April 28 has been greeted with surprisingly strong enthusiasm around the nation and even overseas, with the Malaysian diaspora eager to help their countrymen fight for clean and free polls.
Opposition Leader Awar Ibrahim and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition are believed to have a more than even chance of wining, hence GE-13 is expected to be the most hotly-contested and the ‘dirtiest’ in the nation’s 55-year history.
Najib’s BN coalition is the only government Malaysians have known since independence from British rule in 1957, but widespread and large-scale corruption has taken a fierce toll on the once-popular BN coalition. Even Najib himself has admitted the chances of a regime change, promising to win at all costs, even if there were “crushed bones” and lost lives”.
Malaysians know they have to fight the BN for their freedom
Hence, when a BN-controlled Parilamentary Select Committee watered down the reforms recommended by Bersih, few Malaysians were surprised. In fact, the common response especially amongst the urban crowd was, “Good, now we can have Bersih 3.0″.
“The euphoria that has greeted the announcement of Bersih 3.0 underscores that Malaysians know full well they to fight or their freedom. Nobody is kidding themselves that Najib will do the right thing. They know that if they want political change, they have stand up and speak out. And I think, finally, they are ready to rise as a body to show the BN that times have changed. You can no longer behave like in the past – bully, cheat and intimidate your way to a false victory,” PKR vice president Chua Jui Meng told Malaysia Chronicle.
So far the disgraced PSC has only granted one out of the 8 electoral reforms demanded by Bership – the use of indelible ink and even then, it insisted on 2 colours, prompting concern that it was out to “cheat” again.
What tops the Bersih list of priorities now is for the Najib administration to order a full and independent audit of the electoral roll.
“This is the most important of all. It is no point having indelible ink when the electoral rolls are corrupted and contaminated with fake and phantom names,” said Tian.
Whole country in limbo
Meanwhile, the guessing game for the GE-13 continues. It is believed that some of the government’s printers have already received orders to print campaign posters for the Umno-BN. Likely dates being touted in the coffee-shops around the nation include the June 9-10 weekend and the 16-17 weekend.
If Najib does not hold the polls by June, Umno insiders say it will have to be held after July because the fasting month will begin on the 21st and ending only on August 19 or 20.
“But this will be most inconvenient period for the Muslims and the Malays especially wonâ€™t be so eager to come out and queue up to vote, they rather stay at home and relax,” an Umno watcher told Malaysia Chronicle.
According to analysts, even if not in July, it won’t be August either despite pressure to hold GE-13 before the Umno internal elections which must be held by October.
“The whole of August will be taken up by the Hari Raya celebrations and the run-up to National Day,” an analyst said, conceding that Najib could take advantage of feel-good factors such as the holiday mood and the Merdeka anniversary spirit of patriotism.
“But this will just spoil the mood and the people will get irritated, especially the Malays. It is a time to celebrate and not a time to get serious and go voting. This too jeopardize Umnoâ€™s chances.”
September – more likely to be a red herring
September was also ruled out on the basis that it was the ‘haj’ or pilgrimage month despite a government newspaper having recently reported that it was the most likely month for Najib to hold elections.
Analysts said if September was picked, it would have to be the first week of the month. There is also no special reason to hold it in September, with no new Budget goodies announced yet, and the effects of the previous carrots like the Felda listing and the BR1M RM500 cash aid already cooled off.
Apart from the ‘haj’ season which ends only in October, Parliament is also due to meet from Sept 24 until Nov 27. Budget 2013 is due to be tabled then.
“Why would Najib rush for first week of September then? We see it as a red herring to lull the Pakatan leaders into complacency. October will be the time for the Budget 2013 to be debated. Once it is tabled, it has to be approved by the Dewan Negara,” said the analyst.
“If Najib wants to hold elections around that time, November is the more likely GE-13 month. You see, November is traditionally a lull period but the weak point of this is that there won’t be any element of surprise in it for Najib and BN because everyone knows it is unlikely to be in December, when the rains are too unpredictable,” said the analyst.
Should GE-13 still be uncalled by then, then it will have to take place in 2013. Parliament automatically dissolves on April 20, 2013 and the Election Commission has two months thereafter to fix a polling date if Najib does not do so himself before then.
Should Najib resort to such a late date, it would imply that Anwar and Pakatan have the upper hand, thereby forcing Najib into delaying until the last moment.
“It is not impossible but I personally don’t think GE-13 will be in 2013. I still think June 2012 is the best bet. Najib will try his best to have GE-13 before the Umno internal elections,” said Tian.
“Unless he has no choice because it is too clear cut that he and BN will lose, then perhaps we might have to drag on for another a year. But this would be very bad for the nation. Everyone will be in a sort of limbo. Businesses will be stuck, even those buying property would prefer to wait and see what happens. It is not fair for Najib to hold us all to ransom just because he and BN fears to lose.”