Najib Razak may be inclined to call for an early general election (GE14) in light of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (PPBM) formation, a political analyst with a Singapore think tank said yesterday.
According to Ooi Kee Beng, PPBM, led by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, may look like further dividing the Malay votes but they instead pose a more real threat to Umno than Amanah, which did reasonably well in twin by-elections held in June.
“PPBM has the clear tactical goal of enticing Umno’s middle rank to defect, and the numbers who jump ship do not have to be big for sufficient parliamentary seats to go to the opposition.
“It therefore makes good sense for Barisan Nasional (BN) not to take chances and instead plan for early elections to pre-empt any momentum that PPBM might be expected to gain,” Ooi wrote in Singapore’s Straits Times yesterday, suggesting that this is also supported by the growing sentiment that the PAS leadership is more willing than ever to negotiate with BN.
Ooi, who is deputy director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas) at Singapore’s Yusof Ishak Institute, also said that the BN cannot rest easy thinking that the Federal opposition will continue to be disunited and confused as they seem to be currently.
PPBM again factors in as the opposition parties, especially PKR and DAP, find themselves mired in internal disagreement over how to relate to Mahathir, who had ruled the country with an iron grip for 22 years.
“Furthermore, the fact that they (DAP and PKR) have held power at state level (Penang and Selangor) for the last two terms makes them liable to strong criticisms over governance issues, especially as an election campaign approaches.
“Their moral high ground is definitely not as unassailable as it was one election ago,” Ooi said.
That being the case, the possibility of early polls seems stronger as the chances of Najib holding his ground and maintaining at least the same voter support that he had in 2013 are good, he added.
“Besides that, pressure from within and from outside the country is building up, and the longer he waits, the less the options open to him become.”
Ooi also weighed in on the recent redelineation proposal by the Election Commission as a possible indicator.
“The exercise to delineate constituency boundaries now being concluded heightens speculation that early polls are coming.
“Having lost its two-third majority since 2008, the BN is not able to increase the number of parliamentary constituencies (which requires a two-third majority vote), hence, it is able to only realign the existing ones – or rename them. And that, it is doing.
“That in itself is a substantive exercise of power, especially with the independence of the Election Commission that is in charge of the delineation being in serious doubt,” he said.
The Federal Constitution states that a general election needs to be called when Parliament is dissolved or it reaches a maximum term of five years. The current Parliament kicked off its term on June 24, 2013, therefore Parliament will automatically be dissolved as of June 24, 2018.
As a general election needs to be called no later than two months after Parliament is dissolved, therefore, the last possible date for the next general election (GE14) will be August 24, 2018.
The fact that Najib had waited until barely a month from the last possible date of the last general election (GE13), some political observers feel he might yet want to wait it out again for GE14 too. (GE13 was held on May 5, 2013, with the last possible date having been June 28, 2013.)
Ooi noted the resilience of the Najib administration in the wake of unrelenting attacks from traditional opposition and in the past year, from within the Umno fold, as a guide to how he can still ride the current storm out instead of calling for early polls.
“By hook or by crook, his administration has survived the many aspects of the 1MDB scandal, at least for now.
“By sacking key dissidents from Umno, especially his former deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, he has consolidated his hold on the leadership of the party,” said Ooi, who is also editor of Penang Monthly, an online publication under the Penang Institute.
The cards are all still in Najib’s hands, the analyst predicts as the national economy is not doing too well and it may be wise to go to the polls before it gets worse.
“The Budget that will be announced next month will provide clear signs as to whether elections will be called in the first half of next year, or if Najib will once again wait as long as he can,” Ooi said, implying that short term goodies in Budget 2017 will be seen as the likeliest indicator to the opposition to prepare for GE14.
tags: Ooi kee beng, penang monthly, najib razak, pribumi bersatu, ppbm, mahathir mohamad, muhyiddin yassin, umno, dap, pkr, barisan nasional, iseas, general election, ge14.
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