Tuesday, 5 June 2012

GE 13 in 2013? - RJ Rajah

By the looks of it, its seems that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is set to complete his five year term before calling for the general election.

After all, it looks like 2012 might not be the year of GE-13 and based on several indications the Barisan Nasional government might opt to complete its full term and hold the general election between January and April next year.

Even Dr Mahathir Mohamad who has become the front-line campaigner for BN and Umno has publicly advised that BN is still weak and that it is not appropriate to hold the general election now.

In his usual blunt style, Mahathir squarely blamed former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s leadership debacles for the weak position of BN.

One of the key reasons why BN would opt to postpone the general election to next year is the fear that Pakatan Rakyat might not dissolve their respective state assemblies simultaneously with the dissolution of Parliament, thereby completing their full term in office until April 2013.

If the BN government chooses to dissolve Parliament anytime now, there is a strong possibility that the Pakatan parties would save their political energy and financial resources by not holding elections simultaneously for their respective state assemblies and this would involve the states of Kedah, Penang, Kelantan and Selangor.

As of now Pakatan parties are favoured to retain these states in the event a general election is held.
By not dissolving their respective state assemblies simultaneously, Pakatan would be able to concentrate only on the parliament seats and state assembly elections in other states where they are not in power.

This would create a dangerous situation for BN because instead of attacking the opposition in their respective states, BN would be pushed to defend the states currently controlled by them.

Vulnerable states such as Negeri Sembilan, Terengganu, Perak and Sabah might become the battlegrounds pushing BN to defend these states. Having finished the general election, win or lose, Pakatan parties would then pull BN for another fight in the states currently controlled by Pakatan.

Possibly it is for this reason that BN is reluctant to hold the general election in 2012 because it would put them in a political jeopardy. But if they drag the general election until next year, then Pakatan would have no choice but to have their state elections simultaneously as well.

BN’s advantages

BN would also have other advantages by holding the election in 2013. Since they are already in power, they would be able to correct several public perceptions and would be able to initiate and introduce several people-oriented programmes to attract votes.

The parliamentary session for the budget presentation would take place in September and this would give the PM as the finance minister another platform to announce many proposals and programmes with which they would be able to further attract some of the voting segments.

The BN government also needs time to enable them to cool down the impact created by the Bersih 3.0 rally and they might want to finish the hearings of the commission which has been formed under the chairmanship of Haniff Omar to investigate the complaints against the police in respect of the rally.

Since the electoral reforms introduced by the BN government have been withdrawn, possibly there would be another set of reforms that the BN might want to introduce in the next parliamentary session, before the general election is called. Such electoral reforms if introduced might also show BN’s sincerity in holding free and fair elections and thereby there would not be any more calls for Bersih 4.0.

Hari Raya Puasa falls on Aug 19 and 20 and the “Buka Puasa” sessions usually organised by government agencies and ministries during the month of Ramadan (July to August) would be another opportunity for the BN government to reach out to the public and civil servants and to mingle with them thereby carrying out subtle campaigning for BN.

Possible dates for GE 13…

Since the fasting month of Ramadan would commence around July 19 it is unlikely that the general election would be called before that, given the fact that the BN government needs time to correct certain public perceptions particularly relating to Bersih 3.0.

Once Hari Raya Puasa is over, the next possible month for general election would be September but the UPSR examination is commencing on Sept 11. Again it is unlikely that the general election would be called before Sept 11 as it would definitely disrupt the schools’ preparations for the examination.

The budget parliamentary session would also take place during the month of September and the BN government might not want to miss this golden opportunity of dishing out some goodies for the rakyat in the name of Budget 2013.

Hari Raya Haji falls on Oct 26 and if the election is held during this month, BN would have to face the wrath of PAS leaders who would criticise Umno and BN for holding elections while many Muslims are away in Mecca performing their Haj pilgrimage.

To make matters worse, the PMR examination is also scheduled to take place during the month of October.

During November, the SPM and STPM examinations would be held in a long stretch and again holding the general election during this month is also out of the question.

In Malaysia, general elections are not held during the month of December because of the monsoon season in the East Coast states of Peninsular Malaysia. During December, some east coast states including Johor are prone to floods .

Therefore, all the factors put together indicate that the GE-13 would only take place in 2013!

RJ Rajah is an observer and writer on Malaysian politics and social issues.

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