23 November 2010

BN wise to hold polls in 2012, say analysts

The Malaysian Insider
By Melissa Chi,

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 — Analysts insist that it is more favourable for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition to call for snap polls in 2012, amid speculation it will be held as early as next March.

BN should consider crucial factors, such as the current economy, domestically as well globally, its popularity among voters, the country’s budget, especially the issue of bonuses for civil servants, among others, to fix the best date for the next general election, the analysts told The Malaysian Insider.

Political scientist Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said it is advisable to hold the next election in 2012 and attributed the slowing economy as one of the factors for a later snap poll.

Malaysia’s economy slowed slightly to 5.3 per cent growth in the third quarter due to weaker demand from advanced economies, but Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was optimistic the country was still on track to exceed the official growth target of six per cent.

But Sivamurugan said he was told that the US economy might take a further plunge in the middle of next year, so, the prime minister might call for elections ahead of that.

“If they are thinking that’s the main factor, then it will be an early election... But I would suggest to have it in 2012 because by then, the prime minister can throw out the achievements of the major plans announced such as the ETP, because we have yet to see the end results,” he said.

Sivamurugan said BN”s move to accept members directly effective November 20 and the “feel good media” directives, are some of the instruments to indicate an early election, but that does not mean that it will be a smart move for BN.

Dr Lim Teck Ghee, director for the Centre for Policy Initiatives, called those attempts to burnish the BN’s credentials as the “moderate and inclusive” party, ahead of early elections.

“Umno leaders from now on can be expected to put on their best behavior and Umno’s media partners presumably will also be told to not rock the boat.

“Whilst this is the strategic and smart thing for BN to do, the electorate also has long memories,” Lim said.

He said the ruling coalition should expect Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to counter attack on forgotten election promises and would focus on issues in which the BN “has shown itself incapable of reform”.

Political analyst Associate Professor Dr Samsul Adabi agreed with Sivamurugan that elections should be held at the end of 2011 or early 2012, but most importantly, after the announcement of the 2012 Budget.

He said signs favourable to BN, such as the twin win at the Galas and Batu Sapi by-elections, would be contributing factors in boosting in confidence for the government.

However, Samsul said the government needs another budget to attract the votes from government servants, made up of a majority of Malay voters.

In his 2011 Budget speech, Najib said that there will be no bonuses for the civil servants but gave out a Special Financial Assistance of RM500. The move had caused outrage by many civil servants and the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) president had spoken out against it.

The Najib Administration cited “financial constraints” for not paying bonuses to its 1.2 million civil servants, saying it would incur an expenditure of RM3.1 billion.

“A lot of analysts saw [that] by not giving out bonuses, [the BN made] a big mistake … because in 2008 most of the voters chose to not vote for BN because of that,” Samsul said, that was not the sole factor.

“That is just one of the many factors but it is … significant for the BN to think about,” he said.

Lim said based on the recent indicators, the government will go ahead with the elections early next year, regardless of the current economic state.

“The problem with the global economy is not only that it is slowing, but also that it could lapse into a double dip, given that the attempts to stimulate growth have so been not been very successful. Hence to wait longer is more dangerous,” he said, echoing Sivamurugan’s predictions.

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