GE15 – will it be sooner or later?

(The Star) – Although talk of a Cabinet reshuffle has been dismissed by the Prime Minister, the big question is whether a general election will be called sooner than later.

Political parties are rather divided on the issue – with some saying they were ready and others feeling that the time was not right.

Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan said the party is at near “full preparedness” to face the general election, with the recent Melaka polls providing a good training platform.

“So the question of when the GE will be held does not really matter because we are prepared.

“Whether it is held this year or if it comes to a full five-year term (next year), we are ready to face it,” he said when contacted.

With GE14 held in May 2018, the next general election will have to be called on or before July 2023.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who led Pakatan Harapan to victory in GE14, has predicted that GE15 could be held by the middle of 2022.

Ahmad said any decision to call for a general election would have to be made by the supreme council in consensus.

“It is normal for leaders to have their opinions on when is the best time but at the end of the day, it is a decision which we make together with the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob),” he said, in response to talk that certain party leaders want GE15 to be called sooner. Ismail Sabri is Umno vice-president.

Ahmad said Umno will consult with its partners in Barisan Nasional to enquire about their preparations and seek their views on the next general election.

Pakatan Harapan communications director Fahmi Fadzil said that at this stage, it is not “worth it” to have a general election with Covid-19 still rearing its ugly head.

He said it will contradict the government’s decision to even temporarily suspend the travel permission for the Umrah pilgrimage.

“Also, we do not know how the weather situation will be in the next few months. It is a Catch-22 situation. Eventually, we will have to get to it, but just not now,” he said.

Klang MP Charles Santiago of DAP said an early general election is not necessary, especially after the country is still reeling from the severe floods.

“Most (flood victims) are cleaning up their homes, and we also have Covid-19 as well as a lot of unemployment. This combination has put so many groups in a vulnerable situation.

“The government has to overcome this first,” he said.

PAS Youth chief Ahmad Fadhli Shaari said the party’s guess on the date for GE15 “is as good as anyone else’s”, adding that Umno will have a big hand in it.

“When the general election is called will also depend on how soon Umno can resolve its internal issues. For PAS, we will cross that bridge when the time comes but we are also ready,” said the Pasir Mas MP.

Saying the party is ahead in its election preparations, the issue which it wants to tackle is that involving Undi18, on the lowering of the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.

“Since this will be implemented, we want to engage more with young voters to make them understand our political views,” said Ahmad Fadhli.