Sarawak polls likely in April, GE later, says BN sources

By G. Manimaran, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 – The Barisan Nasional (BN) is set to call for Sarawak state polls in April ahead of a general election widely speculated to be held later this year as the ruling coalition needs more time to ensure victory, sources say.

The ruling coalition is unlikely to call for a general election simultaneously with Sarawak despite the suggestions of some leaders from the state in support of the move during a recent coalition meeting.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the Sarawak election, which must be called by July, will be held around early April instead, with Parliament only being dissolved after.

“Yes, there were a few Sarawakian leaders who suggested simultaneous elections but the broad consensus is that the state holds its polls first,” said a component leader who attended the supreme council meeting here on Friday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who chairs the coalition, also agreed that Sarawak should come first, said the source.

The BN supreme council meeting also discussed preparations for the Sarawak BN convention on March 5 which will see matters relating to the state polls topping the agenda.

Najib has recently said that Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud already has an “inspiration” on when to dissolve the assembly.

It has been widely speculated that a 13th general election will be held either in the second or fourth quarter of the year.

However, opinion has been split over whether it should be held concurrently with Sarawak.

Some feel that as surveys show Najib’s popularity was at 69 per cent at the end of last year, BN should capitalise and hold combined elections as soon as possible.

Others, however, feel that as Sarawak is a safe state for BN, the state polls can be held first to gauge voter sentiment before federal polls are called.

Sarawak’s assembly must be dissolved by July while Parliament and other states have until April 2013 at least.

The source added that the meeting two days ago found that BN needed more time to prepare for a general election.

“It appears that many hold the view there is no rush to call a snap poll, let alone a combined one. We need to be better prepared.

“After all, it has only been three years since the last general election. We have the mandate until 2013,” the source said.

The BN leader added that both Najib and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said they will tour the country first and that will last until at least July or August.

When he closed the Umno general assembly late last year, Najib said that he and Muhyiddin will meet Umno members across the country beginning early this year, and it would take about three to four months to complete.