By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
The guessing game as of when the general election will be held has been on-going for more than a year but the heat is still on.
Even Umno leaders have grown impatient. Minister in the PM's department has proposed a British-style full 5-year term before the next election is called but DPM Muhyiddin maintains the general election should be best held before the end of the year, even if it were to fall on the Ramadan fasting month or the September Malaysia Day.
Further deferment will not do BN any good, but simply put, it is impossible to have the election in the puasa month unless BN is ready to part with Muslim votes. As such, the earliest date for the 13th general election will be in September, after Merdeka.
Najib has missed the most opportune timing to hold an election. He missed the first perfect timing after last April just before the Bersih 2.0 rally on July 9 to recoup some of the lost territories and snatch back the two-thirds majority having just consolidated its hold on Sarawak. The second missed chance was early this year when the government handed out 1Malaysia aids and before the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28, when BN still had the ability to retain its rule even if it fails to secure two-thirds majority.
Having gone through the impact of two major rallies, BN has found itself further and further estranged from the middle voters. As the euphoria provided by the transformation programme begins to thin out, and administrative flaws begin to surface, including crime, corruption and human-induced lapses and irregularities, Lady Luck may not be on BN's side again this time round.
Public complaints are growing in intensity. Other than demanding cleaner elections, they also voice up against Lynas, petrochemical projects, nuclear plants, defence of Jalan Sultan, while Chinese Malaysians want immediate solution to the perennial teacher shortage problems and an independent Chinese secondary school in Kuantan.
Such uproars will continue to jolt the support base of the ruling coalition, some evolving into popular civic campaigns that might pose a direct threat to BN's authority.
Neither the government nor its transformation programme still has the capacity to deal iwth such intricate political realities. Not even legal reforms can appease the backlash from middle voters. As such, it is easy to understand why PM Najib has shifted gear towards distributing more generous aids in a bid to hold down its support base.
From the RM500 aids, RM100 student allowances and RM200 book vouchers, more and more are to gain from the government's generosity drive which also includes 1Malaysia shops, lunches, taxi vouchers, tertiary student discount cards, handouts for Felda settlers and Raya bonuses, among many other goodies.
The number of beneficiaries have ballooned from the initial tens of thousands to millions now. These people will form a reckoned force that will continue to keep BN in power.
That said, external environments such as slowing exports owing to sluggish global economy are hard to control. The impact will only swell with time. Besides, internal problems also have yet to be addressed: gross dissatisfaction among grassroots leaders towards Sabah chief minister will likely affect the final list of the state's electoral candidates.
To the BN, time is running out for the general election. Preparations started way too early would only result in lassitude while excessive prudence exercised will only result in slip-past of the most favourable timing.