THE PRESIDENT & THE POSTER BOY – BUT OF WHAT USE IS BEING ‘POSTER BOY’ TO ISMAIL SABRI? MAKE HIM UMNO PRESIDENT – THEN UMNO IS SURE OF A SMASHING WIN IN GE15 – BUT IS INSINCERE ZAHID WILLING TO PAVE WAY FOR ISMAIL TO TAKE OVER THE UMNO TOP POST?

Umno will use any excuse to press for early polls, say analysts

UMNO will use any excuse, including the high cost of living, to call for an early general election, political analysts said.

Given that the country’s economic situation is not about to improve anytime soon, they said it is as good as any time to call for an election.

Others, however, said that if Umno uses the economy as an excuse, it might backfire because they are also in the current ruling government which has not had a handle on the economy.

Professor James Chin of the University of Tasmania said Umno wants to ride on the momentum of its Malacca, Sarawak and Johor state election wins and therefore, will use any excuse to call for an early general election.

“They believe if they hold a GE now, they will win because of the momentum generated by Malacca, Sarawak and Johor.”

While Umno may be desperate, Chin said Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has proven to be the party’s biggest stumbling block.

“They will use any excuse, any pressure to get Ismail to go and see the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to ask for a GE.

“It can be any issue under the sun as long as Najib Razak (former prime minister) and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (Umno president) get an early election, meaning between now and December.”

A date has yet to be set for the 15th general election, which must be held by July 2023 when the current Parliament term expires, but Ismail has been under pressure from Umno to dissolve Parliament and hold snap polls.

Umno also passed a resolution to postpone the party’s election till six months after the 15th general election (GE15) at its general assembly in March.

An early polls is seen as a way for Umno leaders facing corruption trials, the likes of Najib and Zahid, to free themselves should the Barisan Nasional coalition retake the federal government.

Ismail recently said that while Umno is ready for the GE, the date will be decided by the government. The current ruling coalition consists of BN component parties, Bersatu and PAS.

Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said given that there is no prospect for Malaysia’s economy to improve anytime soon, Umno might as well use it to call for an early election.

“If you wait until later on in the year or even next year, pushing it to the very end of the parliamentary term, then all this rising cost of living and inflation will only get worse.

“(They) might as well get it over with. If there is a prospect for the socioeconomic condition to get better, then of course you should hold elections then.

“But it doesn’t realistically appear to be that way. So might as well do it now,” Oh said.

Riding on economic issue may backfire on Umno

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia political analyst Mazlan Ali was of the view that using the economy to call for polls might backfire on Umno.

“If Umno uses the cost of living as an excuse to call for a GE, it will backfire. BN is in the current ruling coalition,” he said.

“The people will question why they were unable to resolve the economic problems but are instead calling for an election.”

Mazlan said that Ismail has made certain populist moves such as eliminating the approved permit (AP) requirement to import foodstuff into the country.

This, Mazlan said, shows that Ismail is trying to hold on to power until the end of the parliamentary term.

“Umno is desperate, but they have no way to call for an election. Ismail is pretty brave now.”

Mazlan said that while Umno has named Ismail as its PM candidate for GE15, the fact that Zahid still remains president shows otherwise.

“Though Zahid said Ismail is the poster boy and PM candidate, why didn’t he make Ismail the party president?

“Why would Ismail want to dissolve Parliament now, when Zahid can kill his political career if he chooses,” Mazlan said. 

THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

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