Hints that Parliament to dissolve in October
Some were more specific, suggesting that the Prime Minister intends to table the Budget himself on Oct 7 and that, a few days later, he will seek the King’s consent on dissolving Parliament.
All this, they said, will pave the way for elections in November.
The problem with these predictions is that the Prime Minister himself is not dropping any hints.
As a result, there are still many out there who think the election will be next year.
There are also some strange rumours that Ismail Sabri may risk being suspended by Umno if he decides to go for a full term.
“I can assure you nothing like that will happen. The PM has said so many times that he is a party man. Alone, he is nobody, but with the party behind him he is the poster boy,” said former Kapar Umno division chief Datuk Faizal Abdullah.
Ismail Sabri, who is an Umno vice-president, needs the party as much as the party needs him to navigate the choppy waters ahead.
The party needs him to advise the King on dissolving Parliament, he needs the party’s support to hold on to the job.
Ismail Sabri’s standing in Umno took a hit after Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s imprisonment.
He was caught in the political storm that blew through Umno but the thing about storms is that it eventually blows over and he is working hard to regain the trust.
Anything to do with Najib tends to trigger discussion in Umno chat groups.
For instance, his recent health issues drew all kinds of opinions including brickbats for Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin over his detached attitude on the VIP prisoner.
Ismail Sabri’s call for Najib to be given the best medical care also triggered discussion in Umno and some noted with irony that the Prime Minister had finally broken his silence on Najib’s imprisonment.
The symbiotic reliance between Ismail Sabri and Umno could not be more urgent than at this point in time.
“The PM needs us, we need him. Everyone of us need to work with each other to move ahead,” said supreme council member Datuk Seri Sarkar Shamsudin.
Umno’s stand on the general election has come out loud and clear at its general assembly and party gatherings as well as behind closed doors during its supreme council meetings
It is not just the court cluster who want the election this year, the division chiefs who form the power base of Umno are also for it.
As such it would be political suicide for Ismail Sabri to go against their wishes.
The Prime Minister who will be overseas from Sept 21 will return in time for the Umno supreme council meeting on Sept 30.
This will be a highly-anticipated meeting where the party is likely to discuss the date for the general election.
Will the supreme council and the Umno “top 5” press Ismail Sabri to commit on an election date?
“The PM has been focused on the Budget, gathering feedback wherever he goes. He has kept things close to his chest, including whether he will be the one to table the Budget or if he will dissolve Parliament before or after the Budget is approved,” said Faizal.
The circle around Ismail Sabri wants him to use the Budget to restore his standing in the party and to win support from voters out there.
It will be an election Budget and speculation that he may table it himself suggests he intends to present it as a “Barisan Nasional Budget”.
“The Budget aside, the only thing that could possibly strengthen his position is a strong election win. It will be hard for anyone else in Umno to take him on after that.
“However, the PM would want some certainty that his party will do well before he goes for it. They cannot use Johor and Melaka as the yardstick because the general election is a totally different game,” said political commentator Ivanpal S. Grewal.
Politicians from both sides think they know what the voters want – political stability, a strong economy, good governance, jobs, racial and religious tolerance.
However, what puzzles Umno politicians is that the ground seems rather too quiet.
What excites the urban west coast leaves the Malay heartland cold. And what the heartland Malays care about goes against the grain of the non-Malays.
There is so much clashing priorities and politicians find it hard to work up the electorate like back in 2018.
“There was a bit more political noise on social media after Najib went to jail but, suddenly, it is so slow again,” said Sharkar who is also Lanchang assemblyman.
Sharkar thinks the silence means that voters have already decided.
Have people decided who they plan to vote for? Or have some of them decided not to come out to vote?
Or are they simply tired and fed-up?
If the silent ground means that people have decided, then how do we explain the situation in 2018 when so many had made up their minds to change the government but were making so much noise, be it in the kopitiam or social media?
So many questions but the answers will only be known on election night.