The premier says there is no law to stop him from calling for polls anytime he sees fit.
Minister in the Prime Minister Department Nazri Aziz had said a fixed five-year mandate meant all parties would be given a sufficient preparation timeframe, but Najib said to do this the Federal Constitution must first be amended.
“There is no law to stop me from holding elections early or to wait after the mandate expires,” he told a press conference after chairing Umno’s supreme council meeting here.
“I am given the power to advise the King when to call for elections anytime I deem fit in accordance with the Federal Constitution. If you want to change that, you have to change the constitution,” he added.
Nazri suggested in Parliament yesterday that Malaysia allow a fixed five-year mandate for those elected in a general election, following UK’s newly-passed Fixed-Term Parliament Act 2011.
The Act stipulates that the British Parliament will automatically dissolve 17 working days before the polling day of a general election. It received royal assent last September and will officially come into force in three years’ time.
The local provision which gives Najib the “privilege” to call for polls anytime before the mandate ends has drawn criticism from opposition leaders.
The power gives the ruling coalition an edge over its rivals, they alleged.
It gives Barisan Nasional the ability to catch Pakatan Rakyat offguard as no adequate notice would be given. This could hurt the latter’s polls preparation.
Undoing the damage
Since Najib took office in 2009, several dates have been bandied about as potential polls dates leading to concerns over the economy in view of the uncertainty in policymaking.
Businesses, on the other hand, said the constant speculation over election dates has created uncertainty and is affecting trade.
It was widely speculated that Najib would call for polls in the first half of this year, but several political setbacks including the violent crackdown on a poll reform march last April were said to have forced a delay.
The premier is widely tipped to use the 2013 Budget to undo the damage in a move similar to the March cash handouts for the poor that resulted in increased popularity.
He will table the budget in Parliament on Sept 28. Analysts say Najib will likely give time for the money to trickle down before he calls for the 13th general election.