Following one blunder after another in the past nine months, BN now has a final chance to get things right by offering sufficient goodies in the budget.
A closer look at the nine months (from January to September) will show how tough the fight has been for the government, which has been making lots of mistakes. The actions of the BN leaders, their comments and their refusal to listen to the people indicate troubled times ahead for the ruling coalition.
In January, PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim witnessed a landmark victory in his Sodomy ll case when the judge swiftly dismissed it after months of non-stop Anwar bashing.
Anwar said he was shocked that the verdict was read in just a minute and that the case was thrown out while he had prepared his tooth brush and toothpaste for a long haul in jail.
“What a waste of public money and court time the entire case was,” he said at a rally in Selangor.
And this was to be the beginning of a long list of setbacks that would plague the BN. One wonders how will the ruling coalition recover from these debacles. The Sodomy II case was a political mistake that did not have the same effect on Anwar as the first.
The first on the list of blunders is the bashing of the Bersih 3.0 participants that has tarnished the image of the government.
In April this year, thousands of Malaysians descended on the streets to urge the government to carry out changes to the electoral laws and the way elections are being held in the country.
The peaceful march of the protesters was disrupted by the heavy-handed security forces, who used tear gas, batons and at times physical force to try disperse a mammoth crowd.
There is no way this bashing of the people would have done BN any good.
The near physical attacks by the BN against Anwar, his daughter Nurul Izzah and other PKR members is another BN blunder.
Pakatan leaders have also been verbally abused, stones were thrown into Pakatan ceramahs and BN rallies (or anti-Anwar rallies) were staged next to Pakatan gatherings.
And yet the ruling coalition cries foul and says the culture of rallies, demonstrations and disrespect shown towards the prime minister by some youth are “not part of the Malaysian culture”.
But are ugly “buttock dances”, blockading of opposition convoys by hardcore pro-government elements and throwing red paints on opposition vehicles part of the “Malaysian culture”?
Is it possible that the coalition in power is finding it tough to handle Anwar and his well-organised campaigns?
There were also the attacks on PKR’s campaign tour bus. It appears that the idea of using a bus to campaign is making BN jittery.
The attacks on the bus showed the ugly side of BN supporters, be they Perkasa members or otherwise.
By its acts, BN will certainly not come out looking like the “good guys” in the eyes of the undecided group of voters in the country.
The water fiasco
Then there is the water row with the Selangor state government. This dispute, which has been going on for the past few months, is unlikely to end any time soon. A group of people, who must surely be BN supporters, have even sued the Selangor state government over this issue.
This suit, which was publicised in the local press and the BN-controlled media, definitely works to the advantage of Pakatan.
If there are people in the country who did not know that water was free in Selangor, now they do know, thanks to the much-publicised suit.
The statement by Pakatan that it will not hold election in Selangor at the same time as the national election if it was held in November also puts BN in a difficult situation.
BN argues that Pakatan will be wasting public money by holding the state polls at a different date, but it misses the point.
Pakatan is telling the public and the ruling BN coalition that it can decide by itself when to hold the Selangor polls and that it will do so no matter when the 13th general election is called.
Indications are that Pakatan would want the Selangor polls to be held after March next year, that is, after finishing its five-year mandate.
In the event the general election is called before March 2013, the Selangor polls will then become the focal point in Malaysia. A BN victory in the 13th general election will probably give Pakatan a chance to prove its theory that the election was “stolen” from the opposition and that the latter would stand a better chance of winning in Selangor and retain the state.
Besides, if Pakatan were to take over Putrajaya in the national polls and organise the Selangor election after it has installed itself as the new government, chances are it will win big in Selangor.
The biggest blunder of all
More problems are piling on BN. The National Feedlot Corporation scandal, the “whistleblower” case, Pakatan’s cheaper cars campaign, the “defiling” of the prime minister’s photograph, the raising of a new flag by some Pakatan youths, the increase in the price of RON97 and BN’s persistence to defend the PTPTN (student loan scheme), are making life indeed hard for the ruling coalition.
BN is definitely on the defensive with Pakatan’s proposal to scrap the PTPTN.
The NFCorp exposé and the subsequent charges brought against PKR strategy director and “whistleblower” Rafizi Ramli make it ridiculous for anyone to report any suspicion of corrupt practices in the country.
Does this help the cause of the BN in the eyes of the public? The public wants heads to roll in the NFCorp fiasco but by protecting the company, the ruling coalition has shown where it stands on this issue.
The biggest blunder BN made is to declare that opposition leaders do not have any protection anywhere during their campaign tour. This must have surely offended many people.
It is clear the lives of opposition leaders and their supporters are at risk in the run-up to the national polls.
There is, however, still some hope that BN’s bad run may be over with the upcoming Budget 2013 to be tabled by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
BN has this final sweetener – goodies – that it can use to woo the people and get their support in the upcoming polls.
A good, popular and positive budget will surely help the ruling coalition end this tough run it is having now.
The budget is a weapon that Pakatan does not have and it is clear the ruling coalition will use this tool in a last-ditched effort to shift the balance in its favour.
This will happen only if it does not make yet another blunder – with the budget.
Amir Ali is a writer and political analyst for Warisan Melayu, based in Kuala Lumpur.