Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yes, it's true: GE-13 finally around the corner!

Written by Iskandar Dzulkarnain, Malaysia Chronicle

There are reasons to believe that the general election is around the corner. Although the government may put if off until 2012-2013, the signs are now unmistakable that it will go ahead sooner, rather than later.

Already delayed since Mar 2011 as a hesitant BN government, unable to gauge BN support contemplates their next move, it simply cannot be put off any longer. In fact, UMNO and MCA had last year postponed their internal elections, sparking speculation of a snap GE-13, so it is surprising that it has continued to drag on for so long.

Najib is on the ground campaigning, and so are the rest of UMNO. While they know the date of the election, the Pakatan Rakyat is still in the dark. An early General Election will also avoid any changes to the electoral system demanded by Bersih – a coalition for free and fair elections - and supported by many influential international watchdog bodies including the UN.

Infighting in UMNO

UMNO with internal politicking coming to a head is getting uneasy. There seems to be a realization that a delay will cause BN more crucial votes. Murmurings on the ground seem to suggest a defeat for the ruling coalition if it continues to delay. Every second that ticks down the clock, does not seem to favour the BN government. The general feeling is that the BN vote bank will not increase, but instead it will favour the Opposition with each passing day.

Pakatan Rakyat is already reaching out to the rural electorates, and each campaign continues to bring in a few extra fence sitters who have no qualms about voting the Opposition and instead are vocal in their support for Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and Co.

With the economy sliding further, a global economic storm brewing and its effects about to be felt in this country, it would be senseless to postpone the election any longer. Price hikes in electricity and staple foods have started to impact consumers, with many reeling from the sharp pinch in their wallets.

The lack of economic projects has also tightened Corporate Malaysia's financial pockets, with everyone feeling the pinch, and is especially hardfelt by UMNO warlords in Selangor and Kedah. The states themselves are doing quite well, with Selangor among the top two best financially-managed in the country.

But the UMNO warlords and their cronies are in pain from the sudden cut in largesse and open tenders put in place by the Pakatan state governments. No wonder, the BN federal government has no choice but to seek a fresh mandate to last until 2018 before disgruntled citizens starts to write them off. Permanently.

Favours BN but only just so

The onslaught against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was seen as BN's biggest obstacle appears to have reach stalemate. Incarcerating him may cause a backlash, and past efforts to discredit him have not met with any success.

To say that Prime Minister Najib Razak's control over UMNO and the government is slipping is to understate the obvious. His reforms agenda, the NEM and ETP have not made any impact on Malaysians either. 1Malaysia is a dismal failure, a joke even. The mishandling of Bersih 2.0 rally for free and fair elections has further eroded his waning popularity. With pressure piling on him and the heat coming directly from UMNO itself, it is beyond doubt that Najib has to act soon although people in Putrajaya say he and wife Rosmah Mansor prefer to wait until 2013.

The daily onslaught of propaganda on prime-time television points to an imminent election. The constant denials in the media like the screening of the police video footage, Najib’s call to the people not to question the RCI’s verdict on Teoh Beng Hock’s death, Rais Yatim's cryptic comment that proponents of Communism have lost their minds, and Puteri UMNO asking PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu to come clean on his accident are all clues that point to an early general election.

If the General Election is held soon enough, it may still favour BN as the latest studies and simulation exercises have shown a favourable climate supportive of BN especially in the rural regions. But that may change for the worse if the GE is delayed until March 2013.

The emergence of Bersih 2.0 and lately AMANAH does not augur well for the BN government either. The continuing registration exercise for new voters have also made BN jittery. Their massive election machinery is on standby, with most of the groundwork in place and all ready to go into action. The loose screws have been tightened in Sabah and Sarawak, two of BN’s fixed deposits and highly crucial to its dominance, while Selangor, Perak and Kedah are seen to be within BN’s grasp.

Of course, this is the BN viewpoint and for their own sakes, hopefully they are right.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has already fired the first salvo in the aftermath of the Bersih 2.0 rally, when he said conditions now favoured Pakatan. But while Pakatan is able to exercise control in the peninsula, it may falter in Sabah and Sarawak as it lacks the logistics and manpower to monitor the situation more closely.

New voter registration a real shocker for BN

In 2008, BN won with a narrow margin of 380,000 voters. 2.6 million registered voters did not vote. 3.2 million newly registered voters are expected to vote in the coming GE along with the rest. Young people were a key voter segment that swung in favour of the Opposition in GE-12, carrying PKR, DAP and PAS to record gains.

Equities research firm Nomura released a report that concluded the outcome of the next general election as highly unpredictable. This is highly abnormal when you consider that BN has won every poll since 1957.

To a large extent, Najib and his advisers have to bear the blame. Instead of getting to work, they hatched one stupid shenanigan after another until the people were so fed up, no one believed anything anymore about Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial or the Datuk T sex video. When Najib himself was caught lying in public over the Bersih choice of stadium - the first time in memory of a prime minister doing that - the people just closed their file on the BN. No longer interested!

No wonder, that despite all the flak and accusations, Pakatan has since July 2010 signed up twice the number of voters compared with Barisan Nasional in the first six months of that year. Some things cannot be spun and no wonder BN is panicking now.

Anwar has been a sporting decoy although the UMNO and Utusan attacks have caused him and his family enormous anguish and private pain.

It would be most probable that during the next sitting there will be a call for a dissolution of Parliament and an announcement of the 13th General Election with a campaign period of 7 days. Yes, the BN and Najib were really running scared of Ambiga's 8 election reforms - she and her Bersih committee did a great job, didn't they?

But we hope that before then, and as soon as possible in fact, that the government will release the innocent from incarceration under the Emergency Ordinance Act due to the July 9 march. Can anyone be foolish enough to doubt that Dr Jeyakumar won't be able to win Sungai Siput Parliament seat hands down even while in jail?

- Malaysia Chronicle

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