The General Election is in July, folks!
By Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad | May 20, 2011
The Malaysian Insider
MAY 20 — I wish I didn’t have to say this but better safe than sorry, so I’m going to say it anyway. I honestly hope I’m completely wrong but my sixth sense is telling me that I’m right again.
Yes, despite whatever the prime minister has said, is saying, and will be saying, about the date of the 13th General Election (GE), I dare say that it’s all meant to coax and delude us into believing that it’s not going to be a snap poll.
And for all the “excellent” track record of this government, it will be foolhardy to expect me for one to buy the assurances. All the more because this country oddly represents the remaining dinosaurs of a la Westminster electoral democracy, where only the premier (and his wife in the case of Malaysia) and God Almighty know exactly when a general election will be held!
It does sound very weird, but very true indeed. Even the UK, the origin and birthplace of a la-Westminster democracy, is moving towards setting election dates well in advance.
Come what may, Najib is hell bent on winning this GE. It is a do-or-die mission. As demonstrated by his now infamous quote, he will defend Putrajaya at all cost – “Even if our bodies are crushed and our lives lost, brothers and sisters, whatever happens, we must defend Putrajaya!”
Utmost in his political calculation is to win, plain and simple. This mandate is the be-all and end-all of his political struggle. Defeat is not an option. He is frantically desperate to secure victory.
Going by the spectre of the unending tumultuous events post-12th GE, and quite unlike all his predecessors, Najib is very wary and fully conscious that the going is onerous and the outcome almost unpredictable. The million-dollar question that begs an immediate answer now is when would it be most strategic and correct for him to conduct this 13-GE.
Despite dispelling speculation that the dissolution of the 12th parliament will be soon, this writer is far from convinced that Najib is honest at that. It’s not meant to be pejorative but quite on the contrary it is to depict him as a smart strategist, if indeed he is one.
The writer’s arguments are as follows:
Foremost in his consideration would be this strategic question: “what?” The “when” and “how” would follow suit. “What” is surely the most important question the master strategist has to answer for himself, and this cannot be delegated. Doing so would spell his doom. To be capable of executing it, it presupposes that he has gathered all the pertinent and critical information there are, from all “sources”, overt and covert.
Simply put, Najib would have to decide what it is he wants to achieve? He hasn’t much to choose from. Defeat is not an option as emphatically said earlier. So, he is left with either (a) regain his lost two-thirds majority in parliament or (b) win by a simple majority.
It is the belief of this writer that Najib has settled for the latter i.e. winning by a simple majority. He still harbours hopes that perchance, on a good outing, he can still wrestle back the two-thirds majority. But what’s the fuss behind making the choice, you might want to ask. Well, it is simply this.
If he chooses a simple majority, that is a lot easier to achieve. If he is passionate and insistent on regaining his two-thirds majority, he has to ensure that the strategic objective is achievable and he wouldn’t have the “degree of freedom” and flexibility to call for a snap election, a quick kill of sorts. This snap option would allow him to ambush his political enemies, when they will be caught flat-footed and foolishly grinning still.
This writer would like to believe that Najib is being very realistic and has settled for a simple win. The defining consideration for Najib is premised on the fact that delaying the GE is not going to do his party and the BN any favours.
Najib requires 112 seats to win. His own party is already in control of 79 seats. Assuming he doesn’t lose any, he only requires 33 seats to win. Even if in the worst-case scenario of Pakatan winning 10 parliamentary seats in Sarawak and eight from Sabah, Najib is still secure with 40 seats from the 58 seats (25+31+1) from his so-called “fixed deposit” states of Borneo. Najib could still make it home with 119 seats to win the “first-past-the-post” electoral system. The actual dynamic is, of course, more complex and fluid. This piece avoids that discourse.
Najib has also bought into the notion that his trajectory is almost at a plateau – on that “diminishing return” part of the S-curve. The recently concluded Sarawak state election spoke volumes of the hypothesis. He doesn’t want to be reminded of the marked swings of the various indigenous groupings of Sarawakians including the usually-docile-submissive Malay-Melanau grouping.
An 8 per cent nationwide swing especially in West Malaysia, as observed in the Sarawak election, would be catastrophic, and would kick him out of Putrajaya. That is a very grim scenario for Najib. Worse still, he doesn’t expect nor hope for this to reverse, even if given more time. In short, time is not the essence of winning back the trust that they have lost. MCA and MIC no longer provide the required additional support. If anything, they have become a liability to Najib.
The rot has gotten too deeply seated, almost terminal as in a cancer patient. Foremost, he doesn’t believe that the Chinese would make a comeback any time soon. No amount of cajoling the Chinese has been fruitful. Equally, if not more distressful for him, is that no amount of tough rhetoric has been productive either.
If anything, it has got from bad to worse. The last round of DAP-Christian state and Perkasa-crusade fiasco was simply too tragic for Najib’s approval rating, especially because he is seen as condoning Perkasa’s condescending rhetoric, the fighter-dog of Umno.
The premier has now to do the obvious. To borrow an investment cliché, he has to “cut-loss”. He has to swallow a lot of his ego and humble himself to the rakyat. Perchance they might want to forgive him but they, the rakyat and the electorates, shall not forget that it’s the two-thirds majority that has resulted in the BN’s decades of ruling with impunity. He has now only to settle for a win – a simple majority.
The next question that begs a prompt answer is a tactical one – the “when.” This is the most intriguing, though. Given the earlier argument, the answer is equally evident. If possible, he wants it today. Why? Well, it is the writer’s conviction that Najib is a coward. Nothing pejorative again though, please. But that is the plain naked truth. He is a very risk-averse personality. Incidentally, that doesn’t augur well with our emerging nation. It is just his demeanour, and it has to do with one’s personality. You can’t hide it.
Najib has never been known to be a risk-taker. He had it all so good so far, almost on a silver platter i.e. from his youthful days of becoming the Youth chief of Umno and all. Do you recall any challenging battles he waged to get to where he is now? Hardly, right? Right again.
In the same vein, Najib is not willing to subject himself to the dynamic of his own party’s check and balance. Given the growing undercurrent of dissent within the ranks of the warlords and the middle-upper leadership, Najib is going to use the coming GE as a convenient ploy to get the party’s wannabe candidates to toe the line. Traditionally, it’s the Umno president’s prerogative to decide the candidacy for the GE. Holding the GE early is surely to his advantage.
He dares not take them on a debate of his 1 Malaysia and “inclusiveness” rhetoric, which seems so diametrically opposed to Umno’s ideology of Ketuanan Melayu. Holding the election early would quell and quash all dissenting voices. That’s being crafty, but still in the mould of a “coward”. Again, he must hold the GE soonest.
Hence, Najib is now out to execute an elaborate decoy plan to delude his nemesis into believing that the election could very well be after Budget 2012, and could well fall on his magical feng shui date of 11-11-11. But that is on a Friday, mind you. Ludicrous, you might be thinking. He will be cursed for having it on an auspicious Friday.
This writer has been informed by reliable sources that the Election Commission has been told to be prepared for any eventuality. Local authorities have also been warned to be on the alert. Most telling is the fact that Umno and the BN have now gotten down to having polling and counting agents identified by name, in all streams in the Polling Districts throughout the country. That’s the level of preparedness. This writer can vouch for that.
Najib very recently mooted the idea of having a mock election for Umno and the BN in July. While having a dry run is not unfamiliar especially for the ruling party, the announcement is odd and smacks of treachery. This fuels the notion of a well-contrived decoy.
Besides, Najib is not going to get much of the “feel-good” factor if he were to delay the timing for the 13th GE till after the Budget 2012. The adverse impact of spiralling prices of daily goods and essential services is not going to be reversed by the many goodies packaged and handed out by Najib in Budget 2012.
On a bigger scale, the global economy is even more challenging, and it’s not going to be merciful to emerging economies like Malaysia’s. The recent expose by the various global entities, like the World Bank (Malaysia Economic Monitor) — disparity in income distribution, Global Financial Investment — on illicit outflow of funds, UNCTAD (Global Investment Report), are very harmful to Najib’s approval rating. Delaying GE exposes Najib to worse “downside risks”.
Last but not least is the assessment of his nemesis, the Opposition Leader and the nascent Pakatan Rakyat. Will Najib be better off or worse off if he delays the GE?
Briefly, Najib has tried his level best to break the camaraderie of Pakatan Rakyat. That route is a no-go, it seems. His attacks seem to concretise further Pakatan’s solidarity.
His only plausible option is to further mount and intensify a hate campaign to damage and demolish the credibility of the PKR’s supremo. Meanwhile, deferring the GE would allow the Pakatan to oil their machineries further so as to overcome Sarawak’s predicament. Najib is not oblivious to this fact.
However, political pundits are divided about whether the delay in calling the GE might result in an “overkill” on the Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim character assassination strategy. But the Malay-Muslim psyche is peculiar in matters of “attacks on individuals” especially if it pertains to people held in awe and respect by the community and the ummah. Najib is very suspicious of the Malays when it comes to this.
In conclusion, this writer has again to say it. Much as he hates that the 13th GE would be held before mid-July, he feels it is better to be safe in anticipating for it, rather than be sorry. In case Najib outsmarts Pakatan on this one.
I rest my case.
* Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is a member of the PAS central working committee and MP of Kuala Selangor.