EC says elections not likely next year

By G. Manimaran (Malaysian Insider)
PUTRAJAYA, July 13 — The Election Commission (EC) has dismissed speculation that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak would call snap polls by next year.
Speculation has been rife about snap elections since Najib’s popularity rating recently hit a high of 70 per cent, coupled with recent remarks by Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders on the possibility of polls soon, and the launch of new policies by the government such as the 10th Malaysia Plan and the New Economic Model.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof predicted instead that the earliest Najib could dissolve Parliament was in 2012, ahead of the end of his government’s mandate in 2013.
“I think it (the 13th general election) will be in 2013. Why is there a need to hurry? It is exhausting,” Abdul Aziz told The Malaysian Insider here yesterday.
“It is still very far,” added Abdul Aziz, for whom the 13th general election will be his first since taking up the job of EC boss last year.
“No, I do not foresee that,” he said when asked if the 13th general election could possibly be held any time now or early next year.
The EC chairman gave three reasons why Najib would most likely not call for early elections.
“Firstly, it is because the end of his five-year mandate is still far away. Secondly, Datuk Seri Najib just became prime minister, and thirdly, his new policies have just been launched…all sorts of policies,” said Abdul Aziz.
The 12th general election was held on March 8 2008.
The two previous prime ministers — Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad — had called for their first general election within six to 12 months of taking power.
As the EC chairman since January 2009, Abdul Aziz has conducted 10 by-elections so far.
“The current mandate is until 2013. But if you ask me, the earliest date for the 13th general election will be in 2012…if I were prime minister,” said the former Home Affairs secretary-general.
“Why should they do it so early? What is the need to rush?” said Abdul Aziz when asked about the possible date of Parliament being dissolved, based on his experience as a former civil servant for nearly three decades.
According to Malaysian law, the prime minister needs to get approval from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament, which is seen as an “exclusive right” of a prime minister.
Abdul Aziz also pointed out that the various statements by Umno leaders over the last two weeks telling party members to be ready for elections were just reminders to party members and supporters from being lax.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders on the other hand have also told their members to get ready for elections.
“The purpose (of such warnings) is to urge party members to realise that they need to work hard, run party programmes, unite, obey their leaders, and that they need to face the opposition. If not, you would feel comfortable as you have enough food on the table, a house, a wife and children. Why would you worry then?” said Abdul Aziz.
“You must take that into consideration, in my opinion. You must look at the party preparations and whether the party is united. All BN component parties must move forward, and Datuk Seri Najib must be satisfied with their performance. That is at the party level.
“You also need to consider the level of public acceptance and how the government implements policies,” added Abdul Aziz, who once served as the Selangor state secretary.
The EC chairman concluded that it was impossible general elections would be held soon because the Najib administration was “just about to enter second gear.”
“If you ask me, they have just entered second gear. Najib has just been prime minister for how long? Can you imagine?
“Soon enough, I will be an EC chairman for a long time…(Najib) on the other hand has just been prime minister for one year and three months, and he already wants to hold a general election?
“Let us (EC) conduct preparations properly first. When we have prepared, then the aspects of the global economy, national economy, the people’s condition, many factors, the season and the like will be taken into account (by the prime minister before Parliament is dissolved),” said Abdul Aziz.
The EC chairman pointed out that the recent statements by Umno leaders during division meetings could not be construed as a sign of snap elections as Najib’s mandate would only end in May 2013.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had recently warned Umno members to end internal bickering and get united by year-end in order to win back lost votes.
Muhyiddin had also said that the ruling Malay party risked further losses unless party members changed for the better to attract more voters in the next general elections.
“(The warnings by Umno leaders) are to ensure that we are always prepared to fight the enemy. We must always stay united and always implement programmes. We must have programmes, policies, and agendas,” said Abdul Aziz.
Abdul Aziz also denied allegations that his personal prediction about the 13th general election was based on the possibility that the EC was not prepared for it.
“We are prepared all the time,” said Abdul Aziz, adding that they were prepared even if the prime minister were to call for general elections next year.
“But it is impossible if you ask me, if I were the prime minister. The only one who knows the actual date is the prime minister himself,” said the EC chairman.
Abdul Aziz added that it was impossible for Najib to call for general elections next year considering that he still had many new policies to implement.
“If you ask me, this is only the first gear and we are now entering the second gear. There are five gears, so why the rush?” asked Abdul Aziz, adding that Najib’s administration was just beginning to “heat up”.
The EC chairman used the analogy of a song to characterise the premier’s leadership, saying “It is like a song that is just becoming popular. When a song is becoming a hit, we should not cut it short. We should let people hear it first until everyone can sing it.”
“It is only July 2010. There is July 2011, July 2012 and many more years. You can do plenty of things, so why do you want to rush them?” said Abdul Aziz, while jokingly adding that Najib was the only one who knew all these things.
“If I were the prime minister, I would not do that,” he said.