Najib may be looking for a 'winnable' election date but one election strategist says that the timing of it would not matter to the opposition.
But PAS national Youth elections director Mohd Sany Hamzan said irrespective of the timing of the election, Pakatan Rakyat is confident of having an advantage over BN.
“I don’t think Najib can afford to hold it as early as March with issues such as the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) and the Auditor-General’s Report still being played up by the opposition.
“Pakatan would have an advantage regardless. We are in a state of preparedness for the general election,” said Mohd Sany.
On Tuesday, Centre for Policy Initiatives director Lim Teck Ghee said he expects a delay in the election as Najib’s strategists would be back at the drawing board due to issues such as the NFC’s “cowgate” scandal and new civil servants salary scheme.
“Najib should not keep the election date a secret. He proclaims people first, but he is afraid to announce it early like how Singapore and Thailand do,” said Mohd Sany.
He added that the NFC issue was a yoke around the neck for Najib as it involved not only Shahrizat Abdul Jalil (women, family and community development minister) but even Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and several other ministers.
In comparison, the feud between party leaders and the troublesome PAS trio – Selangor exco in charge of Islamic affairs Hasan Ali, former party deputy-president Nasharudin Mat Isa and Selangor PAS information chief Saari Sungib – was nothing, said Mohd Sany.
“It would take much more than that to cause Pakatan’s machinery to cease to function; in fact our programmes are increasing,” he said.
On the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms, he said Najib would need to ensure that the eight demands of Bersih 2.0 are met “or face the possibility of another mass rally”.
Political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian agreed that the BN needs to solve several issues before it can be fully prepared to face the 13th general election.
“Voters now are discerning and they vote based on issues. BN would be advised to not only have winnable candidates but winnable timing as well,” he said.
Sivamurugan said Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial, which is scheduled to have a verdict on Jan 9 next year, is a pertinent factor as well.
“A delay would allow BN to rectify certain issues to gain confidence of the people, unless it believes NFC is not an issue, Anwar’s trial is not an issue and civil servants do not matter. They can’t do that… civil servants cast their protest votes in the last election,” he said.
Sivamurugan said Najib cannot delay too much or people would forget the expected positive “feel good” impacts of his 10th Malaysia Plan and the 2012 Budget.
Pakatan good at containing problems
“An even longer delay might see Najib having to prove to the public that he could pull the country through a difficult economic situation.
“If Najib could bring Malaysia out of an economic crisis, then I believe he would get more support,” he said.
Sivamurugan said BN also must not forget internal problems, either within one party or between component parties.
“Are they fully prepared, have they solved the candidate issues, have they solved seat exchanges? These are the internal factors,” he said.
Asked about the opposition’s preferred election date in relation to issues plaguing them, Sivamurugan said Pakatan was much better at sweeping problems under the carpet.
“Their problems are usually not made known unless party leaders come out openly criticising each other,” he said.
Sivamurugan predicted that the election will be somewhere after April, if not in March, taking into account that new acts have to be brought to Parliament as well.
“The most BN can delay is to April 2013, but if they delay further, many other issues could pop up. I think Pakatan is fine with having it now.”
Another analyst Ong Kian Ming feels a delay until the middle of next year was possible, but his prediction was that it “would still be late March or early April”, taking into account the need to table two new Bills to replace the Internal Security Act in Parliament.
Ong said the new civil servants salary scheme will not be an issue anymore as Ceupacs has agreed to it, adding that in the larger scheme of things, the Anwar trial was more vital.
“It seems likely he will be convicted, given how the case has been conducted. In terms of reaction, of a Malay backlash, it will not be as serious as in 1999.
“But the government will be tested. There may be public protests, where the new Peaceful Assembly Act will be tested for the first time, probably as big or not bigger than Bersih 2.0.”