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Friday, September 16, 2011

Reforms or not, Najib likely to delay GE-13 till 2012

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:13 PM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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The repeal of the oppressive Internal Security Act as well as several Emergency laws have been played up to the hilt by the mainstream media, all of whom have rushed to portray Prime Minister Najib Razak as a hero to the people.
Many also say the reforms were aimed at boosting Najib's position ahead of snap general elections, a view which is not unreasonable. But it is still hard to imagine that Najib could summon enough courage to call for polls before the end of this year, especially after former premier Mahathir Mohamad openly advised that there was "no harm" in waiting a bit longer!
The prerogative to set the GE-13 date is in the hands of the Prime Minister and one can be sure this date will always be set to be at the most advantageous to himself and to hs Umno party. So no matter how hard the people, his rivals in Umno or Pakatan Rakyat may clamor for early polls, the whole of Malaysia will just have to wait until Najib Razak makes an official announcement.

In the past, his predecessors always made the decision with full confidence that the BN would be return to power. This time round things are different and Najib himself is in trouble - unpopular with the people and facing an ouster from within Umno itself. As such, it is more likely than not that Najib will delay GE-13 as long as he can. Firstly, he knows his days are numbered, so he might as well enjoy the perks of office for as long as he can. Secondly, he may feel his luck is still able to change and the people could once again think well of him.
Indeed, Najib Razak is caught in between a rock and a hard place. He can ignore the people and Pakatan. But it is much trickier to keep ignoring the wishes of the warlords in his own Umno party.
Warlords making noise
There are two main things Najib has to consider now in deciding the date of GE13.
Firstly, his already plummeting approval rating. As much as BN wants to dismiss the Merdeka Polls; the numbers speak for themselves. Najib’s popularity stands at 59 per cent; a leap away from his highest rating of 79 per cent in May 2010. And although the initial knee-jerk reaction of denial from those around him was laughable, the slip in popularity was taken seriously by some of the Umno elite. This sort of response from the likes of seasoned veterans like former premier Mahathir Mohamad cannot be dismissed and further strengthens the notion that any call for election within the immediate time-frame would prove disastrous for both Najib and BN.
For Najib to remain as Prime Minister, he needs to win GE13 and win big. He needs to win the mandate of the people to stay as Prime Minister of Malaysia. Bear in mind, Najib Razak was not voted in by the people through a general election. He was picked by Umno to replace Abdullah Badawi, who was blamed for the BN's disastrous electoral showing in 2008. Needless to say, this system of choosing the prime minister was panned as it does not reflect the will of the people. This is confirmed by lower 59 per cent approval rating that he received recently.
Needs to win 'Big'
So whenever Najib calls the general election he needs to be confident that he will win big. But this will not come easy. Najib’s 29 month administration has little to show for and has evidently come to a sickly stall. The two-sided nature of his rhetoric has hit a nerve in middle Malaysia, especially amongst the young and the educated. The awful handling of Bersih, the shady business dealings of family members and the apparent scandals involving huge expenditure that suck the country’s coffers have not gone unnoticed by an educated and articulated Malaysian generation.
Under Najib, Malaysia has seen the worst rash of racial and religious tensions ever. His inability to rein in Utusan Malaysia and Perkasa for their unfiltered assault against all things non-Malay is a sore point that even a visit to the Pontiff and a long speech on Muslim moderation cannot erase. The incidents only highlight to his double-minded tendencies.
Secondly, Najib has to handle the very beast that grants him power - Umno. Whilst everyone is talking about the coming date for GE-13, nobody appears to be bothered about what would and could happen at the Umno General Assembly, slated to be held on December 1-3, 2011. There are factions in UMNO who would want a change in leadership, and the best time to do this is during the annual meeting. To have the polls after the Umno General Assembly, Najib must first be sure he will still remain as head of the party. But to have the polls before the assembly would mean he needs to ride in, with a huge gift in hand, which can only be re-clinching the two-thirds majority in Parliament seats.
Catch 22, caught between a rock and a hard place of his own making
This is catch 22 situation for Najib. Either way, he needs to take a significant risk and within the knowledge that he would lose his place as Prime Minister of Malaysia if he chooses unwisely.
The ‘fire and brimstone’ nature of the Umno General Assembly does not auger well for an unpopular administration heading into a general election. And this year’s Umno assembly would have a significant effect on the outcome of GE-13. Previous Umno assemblies have seen a rash of racially-laced speeches and threats. The Hishamuddinkeris-brandishing incident is still fresh in our memories and it certainly did not go down well with the Chinese community. Could Najib risk going into the GE-13 with the backdrop of a ‘fire-and-brimstone’ Umno meet still fresh in voter’s minds?
This then is the dilemma facing Najib as he mulls the date for GE-13. Some have speculated that the date may be delayed until March or April 2012. Enough time for Najib to settle his popularity and UMNO leadership issue. Already, Mahathir Mohamad has signalled to this notion by suggesting that it would be best for Najib to push back the election timetable.
And with if Najib’s double-minded nature is to be trusted, he will listen to Mahathir Mohamad and delay the announcement for as long as possible.

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