Dr M says Najib should delay polls

(The Malaysian Insider) – Barisan Nasional (BN) should delay calling elections to allow more time to win support from groups including the Chinese community, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Bloomberg in an interview today.

Dr Mahathir said he was confident Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak would probably secure a simple majority in Parliament without winning back the two-thirds control lost in 2008 if elections were held today.

But he said BN would struggle to win back states held by Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

“If you have the time, use the time to build up support,” Dr Mahathir told the international news agency.

He said BN “can’t afford to lose support from any sector of the country. The current thinking is that the Chinese won’t vote for the government.”

The Malaysian Insider understands that Najib had recently decided to delay polls despite plans to hold elections in the first quarter of the year.

He is understood to be keen to gauge support for BN only after a slew of direct aid packages for the public and economic stimulus projects kick in, because of concerns over a softening economy.

A bungle over a proposed new salary scheme for civil servants and the continuing controversy over the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) involving Cabinet member Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil’s family has also contributed to a rethink in BN strategy.

There had been speculation that Najib would call for a general election soon as his popularity remains high and there is a positive buzz from the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision to acquit Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim of a sodomy charge, the second in 14 years.

Analysts have said that the prime minister should call for a snap poll so as to take advantage of the feel-good factor of the verdict and people’s happiness in receiving a RM500 direct cash aid while opposition leaders are confident Najib will delay the election in order to build up support.

Dr Mahathir appeared to agree with the arguments from opposition leaders about why polls should be delayed.