KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Razak could call an early General Election, now that he has bounced back after fending off a corruption scandal.
The Straits Times reported there was talk that it might be held next year.
The Barisan Nasional (BN) Government last month entered the fourth year of its five-year mandate, with a GE not due until 2018.
Asked by reporters yesterday when he would call an election, Najib said: “I can only say the General Election will be held after Hari Raya. But as to which year’s Hari Raya, I don’t know.” This year’s Hari Raya Puasa falls on July 6.
The ST report said an early election seemed possible as the Malaysian Opposition was badly split, the BN had just won state elections in Sarawak and by-elections in Selangor and Perak, and Najib’s nemesis Mahathir Mohamad had failed to ignite much voter interest with his Save Malaysia campaign.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam said if it were up to him, the GE would be held next year.
“Strike while the iron is hot. If they keep waiting, the Opposition will regain their unity,” he told the Sin Chew Daily on Tuesday.
The ST report quoted political scientist Wong Chin Huat as saying that with opposition parties split between Pakatan Harapan and the Umno-leaning Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), two-thirds of seats in the next GE could be three-cornered fights that would be advantageous to BN.
However, the report quoted observers as saying, Najib was unlikely to call an election this year because there were several major issues that needed to be handled, such as a weak economy and the Goods and Services Tax that has spiked street inflation.
There is also concern the 1MDB issue would re-emerge in a GE as overseas investigations into 1MDB have not been concluded.
This aside, Najib and the BN are riding high. “He is very much more confident now because, despite Mahathir’s campaigning, we won,” an aide to a senior minister was quoted as saying.
“We are recovering from the dismissals of Muhyiddin and Shafie,” the aide added, referring to Muhyiddin Yassin and Shafie Apdal who were sacked as Deputy Prime Minister and Rural and Regional Development Minister, respectively, for raising questions over 1MDB.
Unless the Opposition can hammer out a deal, Najib is now more secure than ever.
The ST report quoted Saifuddin Abdullah, chief secretary of Pakatan Harapan, as saying: “For GE14, our doors are open for fresh negotiations (with PAS). But at the same time, we must be prepared for many three-cornered fights.”