PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli has claimed that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is left with no cards in the deck, and would therefore hold the general election by July, before Parliament reconvenes.
He argued that with the the debate on the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355) being deferred to the next parliament sitting scheduled to commence on July 24, the prime minister has no choice but to call for the polls because he cannot afford to drag this issue.
Another divisive issue which BN might want to avoid is the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to prevent unilateral conversions.
Conservative Muslims view the bill as unconstitutional, and claim that it infringes on their rights, whereas non-Muslims see it as a mechanism which can prevent their children from being converted should one parent embrace Islam.
However, with Malaysia having numerous festivals, celebrations and national events, choosing an election date is not a simple task.
Prior to July 24, there is Wesak Day on May 10; the month-long Ramadan fasting month which begins on May 27; harvest festivals in Sabah and Sarawak from May 30 to June 2; Hari Raya Aidilfitri on June 25; and Sarawak Day on July 22.
On the contrary, analyst Faisal Hazis believes holding the election during Ramadan might be a good way for BN to play up Muslim sentiments.
He also argued that strategically, holding the election sooner rather than later would allow BN to capitalise on the lack of unity among the opposition.
“Strategically for BN, it should be as soon as possible even before the fasting month.
“As long as the opposition is divided, and they don’t have an electoral pact, whatever dissatisfaction towards the ruling party would not bring a positive impact to the opposition,” the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia analyst told Malaysiakini.
However, Faisal and fellow pundit Ahmad Atory Hussain believe that an election prior to July is unlikely.
Does the government have funds?
Faisal questioned if the government had the funds for an early election, while Atory said neither the Election Commission nor BN was prepared for the polls to be held before July.
“I was told (by sources) that for July (polls), the EC would not be ready…even BN’s preparations are not holistic,” Atory told Malaysiakini.
Faisal believes the soonest the election would be held is after the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which Malaysia would host from Aug 19, to Merdeka Day on Aug 31.
“The government can ride on patriotic and nationalistic sentiments during that period,” he said,
But what about the problematic Act 355 and Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) bill?
Both Atory and Faisal argue that the government can just push both agendas from the July Dewan Rakyat sitting, to the one in October.
Atory further added that waiting for October would allow the government to table the 2018 budget, which he said is more “concrete” than a simple budget manifesto.
Both pundits conceded that it is difficult to pinpoint when exactly the election would be called.
“In the end, ultimately BN under the prime minister decides when elections will be held,” Faisal said.
Rafizi, on the other hand, had argued that Najib cannot afford to prolong the Act 355, as Malay-Muslim voters would see it as a political ploy, and this would cause both PAS and Umno to lose votes.