Najib Keeps Election Pundits Guessing in Malaysia
Lester Kong – Straits Times
Kuala Lumpur. Election fever continues to run high in Malaysia although the highly anticipated window of June/July is closing fast.
Although the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) term does not end until April next year, Prime Minister Najib Razak was widely expected to call for polls during the two-week school holidays which began on May 26. Many schools are used as polling stations.
But that seems unlikely now as children go back to school on Monday, the same day Parliament begins its next session.
For some, the suspense is starting to get old.
“For us, the low-ranking people, we’re ready but I don’t know why he doesn’t announce it,” said Datuk Syed Ali Syed Al Habshee, chief of Umno’s Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory division. “You think we’re not tired?”
Analysts are now looking ahead to the next likely periods — the weekends before the Ramadan season beginning on July 21, when Muslims fast for a month before Hari Raya Aidilfitri, expected to take place around Aug. 24.
There is usually a gap of several weeks between the dissolution of Parliament and Polling Day.
Once the King has given his permission to dissolve Parliament, the Election Commission (EC) normally takes three days to decide the nomination and polling dates, and the length of the campaign period in between, which must be at least 10 days.
If Datuk Seri Najib does nothing, Parliament is automatically dissolved on April 28 next year, the day his five-year mandate ends. No Malaysian leader has ever waited for such an eventuality.
The EC must hold elections no more than 60 days after Parliament is dissolved. That means the absolute last day for elections is June 27 next year.
And it means that Najib would have to call for Parliament to be dissolved by end-June in order to have time for campaigning and polls before Ramadan.
But Lim Teck Ghee, director of the Centre for Policy Initiatives, thinks the current political climate does not bode well for a July election, pointing to internal bickering over candidates in the BN, particularly in the ruling Umno party.
“There’s a sense that there are different sets of candidate lists favoured by the PM, DPM and the other power brokers,” he told The Straits Times yesterday. Also, “the horse-trading in the rest of BN and the opposition needs to take place.”
Another reason to delay may be a recent survey by the independent Merdeka Center, which showed that support for the Prime Minister among ethnic Chinese and Indians has fallen by as much as 19 percent since February because of the way the authorities handled a street rally that turned ugly on April 28.
And so, the guessing game continues, with analysts going through a process of elimination.
If Najib misses the June/July window, he runs into a slew of public holidays — Hari Raya, National Day and Malaysia Day.
Then in October, some 28,000 Muslims will go on their pilgrimage to Mecca for about two weeks. After that is the monsoon season between November and February.
With Chinese New Year falling on Feb. 10 and 11, elections are unlikely until March or April next year, Lim said.
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times