There's a theory that the PM is losing confidence and 'facing' a situation akin to that of the 'end days' of former premier Abdullah Badawi
KOTA KINABALU: The timing of the next general election is beginning to look like a game of ‘chicken’ between the opposition and the ruling Barisan Nasional. At least that’s how Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Yong Teck Lee sees it.
According to him Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is delaying the dissolution of Parliament because of negative reports from the ground on the chances of the Barisan Nasional (BN) if the 13th General Election (GE) is called now.
Yong said the longer it takes for BN to call for the election the stronger the message it is sending to the people that it has no confidence of its chances.
According to Yong, everything including the launching of operation room, distribution of election campaign materials such as flags to the various states and the submission of the respective BN partner’s candidates list that happened in May showed that the BN was gearing up for a June, 2012 election.
“All these are the last stage of preparation for an election. It has always been like that,” he said recently after a party function.
Yong should know. He is a former Sabah chief minister and was a top State BN leader from 1994 till he pulled the party out of the ruling coalition in 2008 after the BN recorded its worst results in a general election.
It is widely believed in political circles here that Najib received negative evaluation from all the government agencies and others for a June or July election.
“The final analysis is not in favour of BN. If BN wins it will be by a slim majority meaning that BN might win but Najib is out. It means that the BN majority is not enough and Umno will do to Najib what it did to Pak Lah (former prime minister Abdullah Badawi).
“That is the scenario in June. We still have a week or so to know if the election will be in June. For July it is clear, if they dissolve by end of June we can have the election in July, one week before puasa month,”he said.
Yong said it was still possible that election is in July but definitely not during Hari Raya Aidil Fitri and that the next major event for the federal government is the tabling of the budget on Sept 28.
“In between we have Malaysia Day on Sept 16. Are they going to disrupt Malaysia Day with the election campaign or not. So from Hari Raya to end of August to Malaysia Day then Hari Raya Aidil Adha.
“By end of September to beginning November there is a very small window. Unless Najib says postpone the budget then you have bigger window (for the General Election to be called),” he said.
Meanwhile, SAPP has been preparing for a June election and it was one of the reasons that the party launched its election manifesto at the delegates’ conference last weekend.
On the distribution of seats among the opposition parties in Sabah, Yong said he was fairly confident of reaching a winning formula with other opposition parties.
In his policy speech he avoided the term “one-on-one” which indicates that the party is ready for multi-cornered fights in at least some constituencies.
“It is not going to be easy so we work on principles where state parties contest in a majority of the state seats and we can speak for ourselves when we say SAPP will contest in a smaller number of parliament seats,” he said.
He said SAPP may go for five to seven MP seats including its incumbent seats (Sepanggar and Tawau) but he declined to talk about other seats as “discussion are still on-going”.
Last year’s state elections in Sarawak has also given opposition parties an insight as to how to refine their election strategy and share burden of campaigning against the BN equally among themselves.
“In other words the various opposition parties will contest in easy and difficult seats. Some seats are easy to win while some are difficult,” said Yong.
“As far as possible each party must take both so SAPP will also be sharing the burden with especially PKR in some of the more difficult seats which are difficult to win. So we have one to three months to work on the more difficult seats,” he said.
“The basic principle is that we will take the majority of the more difficult state seats and we will take a smaller number of parliamentary seats,” he said in reference to Sarawak where DAP was given the easier-to-win urban seats and PKR was saddled with the more difficult rural seats.
“We started negotiations with Parti Keadilan Rakyat since 2009 when Mohamed Azmin Ali was appointed Sabah liaison chief.
“We were in touch even before that from the time we left BN,” he said when asked whether there would be sufficient time for SAPP to strike a deal if the election is called immediately.
‘SAPP not kingmakers’
On Star’s steady rise in support in the state, Yong said the new party was still feeling their way.
“We know where they are stronger and we also know in some areas they are still testing the ground. The moment we approach the election, the situation will be expedited.
“That is why I say we cannot guarantee one-to-one because it is not just SAPP and PKR. There are also other parties like Star. We can talk about a win-win situation,” he said.
Star Sabah chief Jeffrey Kitingan and other party leaders have variously uttered the party’s intention to be “the king-maker” and this has been taken to mean that it would contest more parliamentary seats and be able to dictate terms in the event of a hung parliament.
Yong is taking the simpler approach of looking at what is definitely possible for the party. “We are not going for king-maker status we are just going for changing the king … nothing can be changed in Malaysia and Sabah unless Umno-BN is toppled,” he said.
At the same time he took a dig at Star’s king-maker role that also implies sitting down with Umno and the BN and bargaining with who will give the best deal to Sabah.
“We are not on the same line as that. No way that we will be the king-maker to make Umno/BN king again,” he said.