He also pointed out that urban voters have remained receptive towards Pakatan which, he claims, have also made inroads in rural areas in the Peninsular mainly through PAS. “In the urban areas there is a strong feeling of change. It’s the rural areas that will decide the outcome. You’ll see in rural areas now Umno and PAS are almost running back to back. There is no clear middle in the rural areas now so this is why I say it’s 50-50."
Syed Zahar, Malaysian Digest
Speculation that the 13th General Election will be held in November may have some ring of truth to it after all.
With a renewed buzz over a possible November polls following Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s strongest hint yet on it on Sunday, political analysts believe Barisan Nasional (BN) would be better off if it was to hold the pivotal election in November or even earlier.
Political analyst Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam opines that, for BN’s sake, “it is better earlier than later.”
When asked on whether the election is going to be held in November, he said, “Very likely.”
“To wait beyond that (November) they may face seasonal problems – the monsoon season – and this is not good for voting and they’ll have a lower voter turnout.
“From the government’s point of view, it may be the right time to hold the election soon after the Budget (expected to be tabled later this month). And considering the school holidays, it (election) might be in November or even earlier,” said Ramon. When contacted by Malaysian Digest yesterday.
Ramon, who is also a prominent economist, said economic conditions would be a big factor on the election date.
“The international economy has not been growing and may slide further. The outlook of the Malaysian economy is still not bright and it may get worse in the second half of the year and following year," he said.
By delaying the election, the parties and its candidates would risk getting a lower voter turnout as people could get put off and end up not voting, said Ramon.
“People are getting tired of waiting (for election to be called) and are getting impatient, therefore they may lose interest. This could affect the voter turnout as there could be more people who will be reluctant to cast their votes because they are fed up,” he added.
Monash University’s political analyst Prof James Chin also believes that, despite speculations of the slowing down of Malaysia’s economy at year-end, BN would still be in a more advantageous position if it was to hold the election in November.
“November is a good time for Najib and most analysts say 2013 will be a difficult year for the international economy. It is very likely that the European financial crisis will hit Asia in 2013.
“Another reason for an election perhaps even earlier than November is that BN parties are suffering from election fatigue. Most of the Umno machinery has been quite ready since last year and it’s very expensive to keep the machinery going,” Prof Chin told Malaysian Digest yesterday.
Dodging Pakatan’s Next Assault
Prof Chin also believes that by holding the election before 2013, BN would avoid the political assault which, he claims, is being planned by Pakatan for the early part of next year.
“The major reason Najib would have an advantage (in having November polls) is because the opposition is planning to bring up new scandals come New Year. So the sooner he holds the election the better (it is for BN),” said Prof Chin.
He said Pakatan’s main ammunition would be the Scorpene hearing in France which is expected to be held at the end of this year.
“The main thing for the opposition is the French court. Right now the judge is compiling the initial draft report for the Scorpene scandal and will go to hearing. In the French system the investigative judge will have to face another judge who would confirm the findings. Something will happen by the end of this year,” he added.
Is BN Ready for November Polls?
Asked if BN is ready to face Pakatan – which appear to have grown more formidable since the last election – in November, Prof Chin said, “Right now it’s 50-50.”
However, he said BN has a bit of an upper hand due to Najib’s strong branding though this may not last as Malaysians, he said, “tend to be ungrateful.”
“BN has a slight advantage now because the ‘Najib brand’ is very strong. But the problem with any brands and products is the longer it’s been in the market the less attractive it becomes.
“The best way to look at it is like a launch of a new Proton car. The first year after it’s launched everyone becomes excited about the Preve. Today you ask people (about the car) they will not remember already.
“You can have brand new products like the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia and others, but it will only work for a very short time. Another thing to remember is that the Malaysian public is very ungrateful. They get something from you today and they’ll only remember it for a very short time until the next festive celebration. It’s always like this.
Meanwhile, Ramon feels that BN is ready to take on Pakatan in November.
“BN have been ready for some time because they’ve been campaigning in one way or another. If they are not ready by now they don’t deserve to win.
“Overall, BN seems to have an edge and it’s particularly because of the PM’s popularity,” said Ramon.
Hard to Predict
Ramon, asked on his prediction on the outcome of the next election, said it was difficult to do so as “there’s too many slips between the cup and the lips.”
He said a late election would only make both sides of the political divide more susceptible to making more mistakes.
“At any time, anyone can make a blunder somewhere and say the wrong thing.”
“Both sides of the political divide may suffer from the possibility of putting their foot in their mouths as they make mistakes along the way and they are more likely to trip.”
“For all these reasons, it is better to get it over with and only then can we get back together and move forward.”
Meanwhile, Prof Chin said it’s hard to come up with an accurate prediction as he believes GE13 is going to be a close call.
“You can’t really predict (the outcome) because both sides seem to have detailed plans for their campaigns. All we know is the campaign is going to be a very short one as the Election Commission won’t allow a long campaign period so the election momentum is going to be very different this time."
He also pointed out that urban voters have remained receptive towards Pakatan which, he claims, have also made inroads in rural areas in the Peninsular mainly through PAS.
“In the urban areas there is a strong feeling of change. It’s the rural areas that will decide the outcome. You’ll see in rural areas now Umno and PAS are almost running back to back. There is no clear middle in the rural areas now so this is why I say it’s 50-50."
“People always misjudge government programs for government support. By now we all know that when a minister comes and there’s free makan and other free stuff a lot people would come but it doesn’t mean support at all. People in rural areas are savvier now,” he added.