Tenang by-election to determine snap polls

(The Malaysian Insider) – Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is set to decide on when to hold snap polls based on the majority that Barisan Nasional is able to capture in the Tenang by-election.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Najib is seeking a majority of 5,000 votes in Umno’s Johor political fortress before he decides whether to call for election this year. He is due to visit Felda Tenang today ahead of the January 22 nomination day.

The January 30 vote is the 14th by-election since Election 2008, after the death of incumbent Datuk Sulaiman Taha from Umno on December 17.

It is also the first by-election in Johor since the March 2008 general election.

Tenang is one of two state seats in the Labis parliamentary constituency held by MCA’s Chua Tee Yong.

Sulaiman, 59, won the seat against PAS’s Mohd Saim Siran with a majority of 2,492 votes in election 2008.

However, Najib wants Umno to repeat the majority that it had in the 2004 election which was 5,517 votes.

“Tenang will be used as a yardstick. If Umno can win by a majority of between 5,000 and 6,000, then elections will probably be held in June. But if Umno fails to achieve its target then elections may be pushed to the fourth quarter or even next year,” a source told The Malaysian Insider.

Pakatan Rakyat has shaped the Tenang by-election to be a test of voter confidence in Najib on whether he can lead the country under the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, say his political foes.

PR leaders have also admitted that winning the state seat in the BN

stronghold would be “realistically” tough, but they claimed that reducing BN’s majority will affect Najib’s popularity as prime minister.

A recent survey by Merdeka Center showed Najib’s approval rating remains high among voters in Peninsular Malaysia, dipping only slightly from 72 per cent in May to 69 per cent this month.

The poll showed that 74 per cent of Malays, 54 per cent of Chinese and 85 per cent of Indians were satisfied with the prime minister’s performance.

The Malaysian Insider also understands that failure in the Tenang by-election could lead to a Cabinet reshuffle.

“The prime minister feels that the Cabinet needs to be strengthened if BN is not able to achieve its target of 5,000 votes.

“If this happens then reshuffle is set to be in February. However, the six NKRA ministers will not be affected,” a source confirmed.