Unethical General Election 13 by AMBUSH

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By Maria Begum

Pakatan Rakyat is ready to face a snap general election if embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak really decides to call for one in September, even though there are less than 2 months left to go before the speculated timeline.

“PKR is OK with September as we were expecting it in July. But it remains to be seen if this is more shadow play between Najib and the Umno warlords or if it is concrete,” PKR vice president and MP for Batu Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

According to legislation, only a 5-day campaigning period is needed. Hence if it is true Najib wants to hold the polls before Sept 16 as reported, then he can still hide his hand until early September before springing a ‘surprise’ on the Opposition and the public. Incidentally, Sept 16 is Malaysia Day.

Unethical GE-13 by AMBUSH?

Tian points out that this was not only “unethical but normally, there is a minimum of 2 weeks between dissolution of Parliament and voting, which is already not enough notice as it is”.

But given Najib’s record for indecisiveness, it looks like the Opposition, other Malaysians as well as investors will have to remain stuck in a guessing of whether the PM “will or won’t” dissolve Parliament for a few weeks more.

“The procrastinating can only boomerang on Najib. It shows indecisiveness and cowardice. It is irritating to the people. They want to have it over and done with. If September proves to be another ‘chicken-out’ from him, it will only make Malaysians more unhappy with him,” PAS MP for Shah Alam Khalid Samad told Malaysia Chronicle.

He wants to complete 5-year mandate but his ‘warlords’ want NOW!

Just recently, Najib had indicated he wanted to hold onto power until the Umno-BN’s 5-year mandate won in 2008 expired on April 28, 2013.

His minister Nazri Aziz duly informed the press that instructions had been given to the Attorney General to check if there might be any issues of illegality as this would be the first time in Malaysian history such a plan would be carried out.

“I want to seek the advice of the Attorney-General on how to go about it, whether it is necessary to amend the Federal Constitution or it would be sufficient to use provisions under the Election Commission regulations,” Nazri had said two weeks ago.

However, hot on the heels of Nazri’s anouncement, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad “predicted” the country’s 13th general election or GE-13 would be held after the majority of Muslims returned from Haj, which would put the polls at around October or November this year.

The influential Dr M was soon followed by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who only days ago, called for GE-13 to be held this year – adding to the pressure on Najib.

No more money left – is that why Najib wants GE-13 before Budget 2013?

The Malaysian PM is believed to have mulled holding the ballot during the Haj season, but due to public outcry from the Muslims, was forced to withdraw.

The latest spin is that Najib had finally agreed to have it in September so that he could then table the Budget for 2013, which is already slated for the 28th of the same month.

However, this could be ominous as it implies that Malaysians should brace for a ‘nasty’ Budget 2013 after 2012′s election goodies and cash aid-studded spending plan. It certainly bolsters suspicion that the reckless spending Najib has been accused of may have finally burst at the seams of the public coffers.

Nearly 13 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots. On the table are 222 seats in the federal Parliament and 505 seats in 12 state assemblies (Sarawak has already held its 10th state election in April 2011).

Internal wrangling FAR from over

But the internal Umno tussle on when to hold GE-13 is not over yet. This is belied by the manner in which the mainstream press seized on the comments of Abdul Aziz Tapa, an 89-year Umno veteran well known in his party but without much influence or position.

“Election time is not appropriate in the near future or this year but it is better to be held next year,” Aziz was widely reported as saying by the Umno-controlled mainstream media on Sunday.

Among reasons commonly cited for Najib’s indecisiveness was a lack of confidence that he could scrape together a win, much less improve on the dismal win chalked by his predecessor Abdullah Badawi.

Badawi had for the first time in Umno-BN’s 55-year rule lost a two-third parliamentary majority plus control of 5 states to the Pakatan led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim in the 2008 general election.

However, that has not stopped the Umno warlords from getting impatient. Like many pundits, they warn that the longer Najib delays, the greater the advantage to the Opposition. Not only is the Umno-BN government facing brickbats from businesses and investors who are unhappy with uncertainty, the ordinary folk are also showing signs of getting fed-up.

Skewed Election Commission is what Najib is banking on?

It does appear that most Malaysians have made up their minds and want to vote. Many perceive Najib to be a weak leader, who must be replaced and are keen to give the Pakatan a shot at overhauling the government which has been stymied by decades of massive corruption and scandals due to the unchecked power of the BN ministers.

Not surprisingly, Anwar’s Pakatan has been able to grow from strength to strength after a shaky start. The Pakatan is now reckoned to hold more than an even chance of wresting the federal government.

However, it faces a huge challenge from a rather skewed Election Commission, whose chairman and deputy are unabashedly Umno members. Najib too has doggedly refused to implement electoral reforms despite two huge public rallies organized by the Bersih movement for clean polls.

“We are ready and have been ready since late last year. The biggest obstacle is with the Election Commission. They are behaving like the BN’s star secret weapon and fraud can upset the results,” said Khalid.

Najib can still chicken-out again

Given that several other much anticipated timings for the GE-13 have been missed after Najib backed out from giving the green light at the 11th hour, Pakatan leaders do not discount the possibility of Najib bolting once again.

All eyes are now on whether he can convince the Umno warlords, who are impatient for the GE-13, to hold off till next year. Umno’s own party election has been postponed till October 2013 and this means that the status quo in terms of party position and rank can be maintained until the 5-year mandate expires in April.

However, the bitter infighting that has erupted in Umno may have reached a pitch that is hard to bring down – as evidenced by the public calls from Mahathir and Muhyiddin to Najib to not delay any further.

Windfalls of cash and the Scorpene trial

Umno chieftains are keen to hold GE-13 earlier rather than later as Najib would have to unleash ‘windfalls of cash’ to them as part of the election kitty for beefing up the party machinery.

It is not unknown that most of these funds have in the past been diverted for purposes other than for election purposes and paraphernalia, including being used to buttress the personal positions and wealth of the Umno division leaders.

“The clamoring within Umno is quite open. We don’t think Najib can withstand the pressure from his own party warlords. For Pakatan, a late GE-13 is also fine because it gives us more room to bring to the public’s notice more issues. Najib might also be trying to avoid the Altantuya-Scorpenes case which will move into higher gear once the summer holidays are over in Europe,” said Tian.

The PKR leader was referring to the Scorpenes corruption trial in Paris, where arms vendor DCNS is being probed for having bribed officials including Najib into agreeing to buy two French submarines in 2002 worth RM7.3billion on behalf of the Malaysian government. -hornbillunleashed