Politics, politics after Raya

By Wong Chun Wai, The Star

THE word in Putrajaya is that immediately after the Hari Raya celebrations, it will be just politics, politics and politics. In short, campaigning for the general election will be in full mode.

The Prime Minister, it appears, has served notice that a large part of his weekly schedule will be devoted to meeting the people and getting their feedback: that is, hitting the ground ahead of the elections.

It is unlikely that the polls would be called in November. The likelihood is that the earliest date would be in March.

There are those who like to think that polls have been fixed for Nov 11, 2011, simply because they believe that the number 11 is Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s favourite. But this deduction has little political logic.

It has been reported that his schedule would soon be Monday to Friday in the office, Thursday for political work and Friday to Sunday on the ground.

The focus after the Hari Raya break will be to fine-tune his address on Sept 16; National Day celebrations on Aug 31 have now been moved to Malaysia Day instead.

His call for greater democratic space, including doing away with censorship laws and setting up a Parliamentary Select Committee to review electoral laws, is just a prelude to his address on Sept 16.

It is almost certain that he will expand on democratic reforms with an outline of the changes he wants to implement in Malaysia. It won’t be promises but changes that would be set out in black and white.

The fresh democratic reforms will surprise even his critics, particularly those who are pushing for a greater civil society.

In short, the new democracy that he wants to see would recognise the calls by Malaysians. It is the Middle Malaysia that he wants to address. He will say that yes, he hears these voices.

The next priority will be the Budget speech scheduled for Oct 7. The attention will be on affordable housing for low and middle income families and possibly even financial support for books and school transport.

Granted that this could be the last Budget before the elections, no one would be surprised if he tables a practical and yet balanced populist one aimed at winning votes. Given a chance, his political opponents would have done the same if there is a need to win popularity.

Obviously Najib needs to recognise that coping with the rising cost of living is the biggest concern of ordinary Malaysians.

People are worried about whether they will have enough to buy food, pay their mortgage, settle electricity bills, car loan instalments and children’s tuition fees and still have some left for savings.

His Budget speech, where he is expected to expand on his Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and the New Economic Model (NEM), will re-emphasise the point that he has an economic plan to develop Malaysia.

He will have this chance to convince the fence sitters and even those who dislike the Barisan Nasional that he should be given a chance to transform Malaysia.

After all, he has only been in office for about two years.

In short, he would challenge his opponents to show Malaysians what economic plans they have and, for that matter, who would be the Prime Minister if they form the next federal government.

Given the negative reaction towards the Government’s handling of Bersih 2.0, which has dented its image, Najib would want to seize back the political momentum.

So, enjoy the break while you still can because the political roller coaster ride is about to begin.

To all Muslim readers, I wish to take this opportunity to wish everyone Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir batin.