Monday, 28 May 2012

BN mulls September polls now, ramping up election machinery

KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 —Barisan Nasional (BN) is now looking at a September election as the earliest date with the ruling coalition getting its polls machinery working to get a bigger victory and Datuk Seri Najib Razak going through the candidate lists for the 222 federal seats and 505 states seats up for grabs, say sources.

The Malaysian Insider had reported earlier this month that a general election could be called as early as July before the Ramadan fasting month begins but BN coalition sources say several recent surveys show BN needs to work harder to get a convincing victory especially with some 2.2 million voters casting ballots for the first time. The next general election is only due after April 2013 when BN’s mandate expires.

Najib is now going through the candidate lists. — File pic
It is understood the compilation of surveys revealed that BN could win up to 146 parliamentary seats with at least 80 sure wins, more than the 140 won in Election 2008.

“Datuk Seri Najib Razak is a cautious man and he is checking the candidate lists and also the support numbers. His aides are going through the numbers and have called for another round of surveys to be sure of a victory with the support of the first-time voters,” a source told The Malaysian Insider.

The source said the surveys will be done in June and BN strategists would compile and assess the results during the Ramadan and Syawal months.

“Ramadan is due to start on July 21 and then it’s a month of celebrations for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. So the best possible date for polls is in September just before the haj season starts,” another source said.

He also did not discount the possibility that the Najib administration might table next year’s budget proposals and then dissolve Parliament. “Anything is possible but an early election does not seem to be on the cards now.” he added.

Sources had told The Malaysian Insider that a July election was a possibility as election materials had been imported and were in warehouses waiting to be distributed. Several Umno divisions have also begun putting up flags in the capital city and across the country, prompting speculation of snap polls. The coalition controls 138 out of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat and all states except four, ruled by rival Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Najib himself told a gathering of youths in Putrajaya over the weekend that BN is the best choice for him. The three-day Million Youth Rally attracted thousands and included political speeches mixed with concerts and a sports carnival that included drag racing.

The Najib administration has focussed on various demographics but a proposal to abolish a federal education fund by PR could cause support to sway among the youth, a key component in the electorate and comprising at least 20 per cent of the 12 million-strong electoral list. Nearly 60 per cent of the new voters are Malays, the dominant community in the country.

The Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28 asking for the electoral list to be cleaned up has also cut some support for the government as nearly 200,000 people had a sit-in in Kuala Lumpur together with thousands others in cities and towns across Malaysia and the world.

Najib had on May 4 brushed off speculation that the polls may be delayed following the Bersih 3.0 fracas, saying the date would be decided based on how the people view the government. “The date of the election is not contingent upon all this,” he said then.

“Well, it’s up to the public to decide. We will decide on the basis of how the people view the government, you see,” Najib added.

Bersih, a coalition of 84 groups, has disputed the Election Commission (EC) electoral rolls and has called for a clean and fair election during its three rallies from 2007, the last being on April 28 where tens of thousands turned up for a peaceful sit-in. It was marred by violence when several protestors breached barricades around Dataran Merdeka which the authorities closed down to prevent the sit-in.

The Najib administration responded after Bersih 2.0 last July with the formation of a parliamentary select committee (PSC) that made 22 recommendations but Bersih still insists the electoral rolls are not cleaned up.
The EC dismissed yesterday as trivial the findings of a survey showing that nearly half the electorate distrust the country’s polls process, saying the sample size used was “too small and random” to represent all Malaysians.

The survey, announced on Friday by independent pollster Merdeka Center, had found that 92 per cent of voters want the electoral roll cleaned up before elections are held, while 48 per cent agreed that the present electoral roll was inaccurate.

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