BN not quite ready for snap polls, say analysts

By Neville Spykerman (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — Umno’s fighting talk in recent days in pushing its party faithful to prepare for snap polls has been dismissed by political analysts as posturing or a political feint by the ruling party.
While agreeing that an early general election, not due until 2013, is on the table, they believe the Umno-led ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition is not yet ready.
“I feel Umno is just trying to keep its members from being complacent,” said Ibrahim Suffian, who heads the Merdeka Center for Independent Research.
During the Pekan Umno divisional delegates meeting yesterday, Datuk Seri Najib Razak urged members to work as a team ahead of the next elections.
At a separate function, Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein went further by calling for BN to prepare to face the general election.
Ibrahim said Umno leaders were only preparing the ground for when elections are eventually called.
“They are building excitement, so members unite and start doing what is right,” said Ibrahim.
The government’s reluctance to upset the majority Malay population has led to a reversal of government decisions and reform pullbacks that are fuelling talk Prime Minister Najib may be readying for a snap election.
The government last week decided against issuing a gambling licence to quell mounting public anger. This followed postponements on a goods and services tax in February and a scheduled fuel price hike in May.
Analysts say Najib’s wariness of upsetting the country’s critical voting bloc signals possible early polls that are not due until 2013, but which he could call as soon as next year amid a recovering in the economy, which shrank 1.7 per cent in 2009.
The PM also recently increased the constituency allocation for BN MPs from RM1 million to RM1.5 million, in a move which also fuelled speculation of snap polls.
Analysts say the recent posturing by BN was also to keep Pakatan Rakyat (PR) on edge but Ibrahim said he doubted Najib’s administration was ready to face the electorate.
This is because BN component parties, including the MCA and MIC, continue to be plagued by problems and infighting.
“They are not prepared and BN needs to get their house in order before going to the polls,” said Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, of Universiti Sains Malaysia.
He said the Sarawak state elections, due next year, will happen before any snap national elections.
“I think the state polls will be held by year’s end, while the GE will be held in 2012.”
He pointed out that Najib needed time for his reforms to be felt on the ground.
These include the 10th Malaysia Plan, the Key Performance Index for ministers and the National Key Results Areas (NKRAs).
“It’s going to take another year and half before people feel the effects of these programmes.”
Wong Chin Huat also said that BN was in no position to hold elections now, even with Najib’s recent high popularity rating.
The political scientist from Monash University Sunway campus said the results of the recent by-elections are clear indicators.
BN managed to wrest the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat from PKR in April only to lose the Sibu seat the following month.
However, James Chin believes Najib will call for fresh polls sooner than later.
He said Najib, who took over from former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahamd Badawi in April last year, needs to secure his own mandate.
“Najib needs this to push through his reforms,” said Chin.
He added that there was nothing to hold Najib back, and expects polls to be held anytime after August.