Sunday 22 July 2012

Snap polls likely in September before Malaysia Day, say sources

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 — The Najib administration is looking at a snap election in September before Malaysia Day if it goes through with a plan to dissolve parliament next month, sources and analysts say.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s aides and Barisan Nasional (BN) officials have briefed a number of people on the plan to hold elections between Hari Raya Aidifitri which falls on August 19 and the proposed Budget Day of September 28. Malaysia Day is on September 16.

“Snap polls are likely before September 16 so that will give enough time to table the Budget 2013 on September 28 if BN retains Putrajaya,” a source told The Malaysian Insider.

But he pointed out that Malaysia’s Budget Day has traditionally been on the last Friday of October and has been pushed back in recent years due to the Aidilfitri festivities, the celebration at the end of the Ramadan fasting month for Muslims. More than 60 per cent of Malaysians are Muslims and it is the country’s official religion.

Another source said the September date will also allow Muslims to go for their Haj pilgrimage which falls on October 26 and has been a bone of contention among several political parties, who say it will deprive the quota of 20,000 Malaysian Muslims their right to vote.

“We heard snap polls are in September and factoring this into our analyses,” a Singapore-based stock market analyst told The Malaysian Insider, noting that the Election Commission (EC) had briefed representatives of all political parties last week.

Najib has been cagey about the election date although he expressed confidence in winning all state governments and the federal government. His BN controls Putrajaya and nine states while the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) rules Kedah, Kelantan, Penang and Selangor. PR lost Perak in February 2009 when three lawmakers turned independent, which was enough for BN to capture the state.

In his Pekan constituency yesterday, Najib said BN had yet to finalise its candidates for the upcoming general election.

The Star quoted Najib as saying, “The list will be finalised when the time comes. Everything else is just speculation.” He said this when asked about a report saying he had rejected half of the names submitted for the list.

The report stated the candidates were omitted for reasons including being under scrutiny from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and police, as well as being party stalwarts dropped to make way for younger candidates.

“We are still flipping through the names, checking and checking again,” the Umno president told reporters.

Despite his comments, BN sources say they have already taken containers of coalition paraphernalia such as T-shirts and posters from warehouses in a few ports for distribution to all state chapters and divisions. It is learnt that some of the material was imported from China and Indonesia.

BN strategists are using Najib as the cornerstone of their campaign with banners, billboards and buntings featuring his face being strung along major roads and buildings in the capital city and other parts of the country. The KTMB commuter train has also had his face emblazoned on its carriages while party and coalition websites have his photos displayed prominently.

“Najib is popular. The last Merdeka Center survey has him with a 65 per cent popularity rating and he is reaching out to all demographics,” a BN strategist told The Malaysian Insider.

When BN called elections in 2008, then prime minister Tun Abdullah Badawi’s popularity rating was at 71 per cent but he lost the coalition’s customary two-thirds parliamentary majority and four states.

Najib, who is seeking his first mandate at the polls, has been touring the country in his Jelajah Janji Ditepati (Promises Fulfilled Tour) over the past few months and is due to visit Kelantan and Terengganu soon for the campaign. Ironically or coincidentally, Janji Ditepati (Promises Fulfilled) is also the theme for this year’s National Day on August 31.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had also predicted snap polls after Aidilfitri, saying BN was likely to take that opportunity as most voters would not be able to return to their state constituencies mere weeks after the Muslim festivities. The annual Aidilfitri celebrations are usually when Malaysians who work in urban areas return to their hometowns or villages to celebrate the occasion with their families.

“We expect BN will use the opportunity to hold elections after the Aidilfitri holidays. When this happens, voters will think thoroughly to return to their hometowns to vote just after returning from their holidays,” he told the Islamist party organ Harakahdaily in Rabat, Morocco.

Nearly 13 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots if a general election is called involving all 222 federal seats and 505 seats in 12 states. However, the four PR-ruled states have yet to say if they will hold elections the same day as the general election as their mandates only expire next April. Sarawak has already had its state election last year.

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