Not many people would still want to guess the election date now. This is because PM Najib does not seem to have a lot of choices left, and the only possible slot is between March to May next year.
We are into the monsoon season, and therefore GE14 will not be held this year.
If election were to be held end of this year, floods in BN states will most definitely affect voter turnout as well as the final outcome. And once the school reopens, parents will be very busy and we never had elections in January in the past.
Lunar New Year will fall on February 16, and Chap Goh Meh on March 2. If the ruling coalition has ever picked up a lesson from the 2008 mistake, it must dissolve the Parliament only after Chap Goh Meh.
I remember then-PM Abdullah Badawi suddenly sought an audience with the King on the seventh day of Chinese New Year in 2008 to dissolve the Parliament, even though he had denied merely a day earlier that he would not dissolve the Parliament soon. I had to cut short my CNY holidays and rushed back to office. To many Chinese Malaysians, having election during the festive season is a no-no.
May 16 will mark the start of the Ramadan fasting month. If the election is not held between early March and early May, Najib can still wait for his term to expire on June 24 for the Parliament to be automatically dissolved and for an election to be held within 60 days.
But, there are risks associated with this option because no one can tell what will happen then. Moreover, Anwar Ibrahim will be out of jail on June 9.
So, having missed the golden opportunities to call an election after the thumping victory in Sarawak state elections last May and the twin by-elections the following month, as well as the euphoria from the 60th Merdeka anniversary and vastly successful SEA Games this year, the election date guessing game is no more a fun thing to do.
But, having the election after the 2018 CNY still holds some advantages for the ruling coalition. Firstly, the effects of BR1M and special assistance fund for civil servants will come into being.
Secondly, the BN team appears to be more united than the opposition front, and it is generally believed that PH and PAS will not have their conflicts hammered out by early next year. Umno will have the upper hand if PPBM, Amanah and PAS were fighting for the same seats.
The overwhelming victory of Japan’s ruling LDP party in October has stemmed from the disunity among opposition parties.
Thirdly, if the redelineation comes into effect before GE14, BN, in particular Umno, will benefit tremendously due to fewer mixed constituencies. It is therefore believed that the court process on Selangor government’s challenge of EC’s redelineation exercise will be expedited.
Meanwhile, by joining the opposition camp, Mahathir could help PH win some rural Malay votes, but on the flip side may also discourage some non-Malay voters, resulting in lower-than-expected voter turnout.
BN itself is still facing some problems, including fixing the national economy. Malaysians generally have been put under a lot of pressure after the introduction of GST and drastic cuts in subsidies especially with the floating fuel prices. Goods prices are fast rising, thanks also to the depreciating local currency. The feel-good atmosphere anticipated by the BN administration is practically non-existent.
Housing prices beyond the affordability of average Malaysians, retrenchments, fewer job opportunities and rising household debts have all left a mark on the quality of life of Malaysians.
People are more concerned about their own pockets than the 1MDB scandal, and such concerns can hardly be diluted by some assistance funds or budget candies. What we need are long-term plans.
It is very likely that the government will substantially subsidize fuel prices to keep them low in the run-up to GE14. The gradual recovery of international crude prices has replenished the national coffers with enough ammunition to sustain a whole month’s fuel subsidies.
Another real challenge is the lame confidence urban voters have in the government. Few believe BN can deliver a better tomorrow despite the envisioned TN50.
GE14 has been described as the mother of all elections due to the very close fights and the unpredictabilities.