The guessing game is in full swing. Winning the game is not going to land anyone prize money or loads of goodies for home use. Instead this puzzle is only to identify the date of the country’s 13th general election.
The game began just after the 12th general election in March 2008. That election saw the long dominant Barisan Nasional lose its two-thirds majority in the 222 seat Dewan Rakyat to a newly-formed loose coalition called Pakatan Rakyat, consisting PAS, DAP and PKR.
The BN, a coalition of at least 13 component parties with Umno as its backbone, also lost its grip on four states – Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor. Kelantan was already in the hands of Pakatan, namely PAS, and it was well insulated in the election.
Although Pakatan won four new states, Perak was retained by BN after four Pakatan assemblymen quit the opposition coalition to become independent state assemblymen, in favour of BN.
Over the last four years, the nation had been abuzz with what else than politics. The 2008 election results received mixed reactions from voters. Some argued that it was the end of the BN while others said Pakatan’s “big win” was not due to BN’s policies but anger towards then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Since then the debate had not stopped. Every issue from then till now had been politicised to the core. Even small and petty issues had some political connotations to it.
And as if the country did not have enough political parties, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) joined in the fray taking sides. Some issued vocal statements wanting to champion the plight of the rakyat, while others were more interested in staging protests and demonstrations.
It is an open secret that three quarters of these NGOs are under the thumbs of politicians, may it be from Pakatan or BN. They are only activated when necessary.
The silent majority
While all this shadow play is progressing, the silent majority of voters are watching events unfold. They are the ones who would ultimately decide on the outcome of the next general election. They are the ones who go to work, come back in time for dinner, watch TV or surf the web and retire to bed.
They form their own opinions and are not politically inclined to any party. They have little interest in politics. All they want is peace of mind, a decent income to sustain the escalating cost of living and a safe environment for their children to live in.
These are the people who are not bothered if Anwar Ibrahim becomes Prime Minister or Najib Tun Razak continues to govern the nation. They are the people who marked Pakatan on the ballot papers at the last election. But now they seem irritated. Irritated not because of scandals, financial fiascoes or anything like that.
The silent majority are simmering and it’s just a matter of time their frustration boils over. They want Najib to dissolve Parliament ASAP (as soon as possible) and call for elections. They want this political theatre played by politicians over the last four years to end.
They want the country to get on with its development programmes. They want certainty as opposed to uncertainty.
Najib in the past months has been playing the guessing game. Speculation after speculation is made on the date of the election but he is keeping his cards close to chest. When asked by newsmen on numerous occasions, the Prime Minister gives puzzling answers instead of being straight forward.
At the same time he is also whipping up sentiments of BN election workers, going on nationwide trips (which is by Malaysian standards a sign of pending general election), dishing out money to groups among other goodies.
The only thing Najib has not done is come clean on the date of the all important polls. Speculation started at tail end of last year that parliament would be dissolved with polls in December. But this did not transpire. Then it was March, then June and now September, this year.
Each time a fresh speculation arises, it brings along with it hope. If you are let down more than once you grow angry. You start shifting your support and this is exactly what Najib seems to be doing. He is irking the silent majority who are eager to get this political play out of the way.
Every time he meets the rakyat in states and other major functions, he drums into the audience on the importance of the BN to remain in power. This raises expectation that polls are just around the corner. But sadly it does not materialise.
Najib’s risky game
Najib is clearly putting himself under pressure. Even during Umno’s 66th anniversary, the Prime Minister upped the ante asking the 80,000 party members at the Bukit Jalil stadium to be fully prepared to face the polls.
All BN component parties were asked to submit their list of candidates to contest the general election. To date all the peninsular based BN component parties have submitted the list to the BN top leadership.
A total 222 parliamentary and 505 state assembly seats would be up for grabs. The Sarawak state election last year, saw the BN romping home bagging 55 seats, while the opposition won 15 while an independent candidate grabbing a single seat.
The fact that all BN based peninsular parties had submitted their candidates list is an indicator of imminent election. Component party leaders are also feverishly waiting for the call from Najib to discuss the candidates lists . They too, like the silent majority, want to settle things.
But Najib is keeping the date close to his heart. But keeping mum and playing games on the date with voters is risky, Najib being a seasoned politician should know this by now.
The notion that revealing too much could give the opposition a head start and allow them to plan a strategy does not carry weight, because politicians from both sides of the divide have been campaigning since the last general election.
The people have made up their minds in the long and winding four years since 2008. They just want to mark the ballots. Stalling for the right time to hold election is the notion of the past. The 2008 general election had created a new political landscape and Najib should know how to navigate this new landscape to survive.