In the months leading up to the 13th general election, mud-slinging, allegations and all sorts of political brick-brats will be thrown about.
S Retnanathan, FMT
After more than a month of lull due to the fasting month and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the country’s political temperature is expected to rise further as political parties go, presumably, into the last lap before the 13th general election.
Both sides of the political divide are expected to crank up their engines in an effort to woo voters, especially fence-sitters, before registered Malaysians go to the ballots to pick 222 members of parliament and and 505 state assemblymen. The Sarawak state election for 71 seats was held in April, 2011 and would not be held simultaneously with the general election.
Political parties, be it the ruling Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat – a coalition made up of PAS, DAP and PKR – are expected to up the tempo to win the hearts and minds of voters and signs are abound that they would use the next few months to run down each other and prove that they can or should govern the nation for the next five years.
Prime Minister and BN chief Najib Tun Razak has yet to make any significant announcement on the date of the crucial election although political pundits had began the guessing game on the date of the polls since late last year.
The ruling BN won 140 parliamentary seats at the last election while the opposition mustered 82 seats. Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim had said just before the fasting month that Pakatan is poised to form the next federal government, winning more than 100 seats.
Whether this prediction would come true depends on this last lap. Najib has until March next year to dissolve Parliament and call for fresh polls.
“He now has two options. Go for full term or dissolve Parliament after tabling the 2013 Budget. If he does the latter, then we are looking at October or November election. If he misses this, then election would be next year,” a BN component party head told FMT.
Najib, who is also the Finance Minister, is expected to table the 2013 Budget late next month in Parliament. Many are expecting him to use the budget to bolster support for the ruling coalition.
“The budget would be a sweetener. It would be a people’s budget. I am certain he would give out incentives, subsidies and such. He would also announce one or two drastic measures to bolster support. It would be good for the people.
“Although the opposition would criticise this move as campaigning, it is Najib’s right as prime minister. It has happened before during the time of Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He tabled the budget and subsequently called for election. We think Najib would take the same route,” said the leader, who declined to be named.
BN firing salvos
It would also be interesting to see if the opposition-ruled states would dissolve their State Legislative Assemblies when Najib dissolves Parliament before March next year. Kelantan, Kedah, Penang and Selangor are in the hands of the opposition.
Pakatan had said that it would follow the federal dissolution if BN decides to call for polls after September this year and this is more likely to happen.
Although BN has been on the receiving end – and in some cases back-peddling – on issues brought up by the opposition, it has begun firing against Pakatan, targeting mismanagement of states ruled by the opposition.
Starting from Kedah, the BN claimed that the state was lagging in development and the bickering among Pakatan partners is a cause for concern. The PAS-led government in the northern state is also unstable after rebels in the party, who are also state assemblymen, openly asked Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak to step down.
The BN is also firing salvos against the Kelantan PAS-led government, complaining of slow development and the lack of proper basic amenities. Over in Penang, the state government spearheaded by DAP is also under fire for various allegations of mismanagement.
So far, DAP secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has been on top of things, deflecting a barrage of criticisms thrown against the state government.
Selangor, the state led by PKR’s Khalid Ibrahim, is reeling from revelations of mismanagement in the state government-owned Talam Corporation.
The problem with Pakatan-ruled states is that there is no concerted effort to deflect criticisms.
“The state organs are not utilised to the fullest due to politics. They should answer all issues brought up. They should not push them under the carpet or just blame the previous BN-led state governments. They should stand up and defend themselves. So far only Penang is doing it but in doing so, it blames the former state government for almost everything,” a political observer noted.
While Pakatan had made inroads into Sabah by enticing two BN MPs to jump ship last month, it is very unlikely to create a huge dent on BN in the land below the wind.