April polls likely in Malaysia after everything 'done and dusted'

Wong Sai Wan in Kuala Lumpur/The Star
20 February 2013

Kuala Lumpur (The Star/ANN) - Malaysia's Parliament has to be dissolved this week if the general election (GE) is to be held in March.

Sources said it was now likely that the 13th GE will be held in April instead, even though Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was very keen to have everything "done and dusted" by the end of March.

Three important things are still ongoing and would need a week or two to complete before Najib can even see the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for his consent to dissolve Parliament, said a party official.

He identified the three incomplete matters as the Barisan Nasional (BN) manifesto, candidates' list and general preparation of the coalition.

It is learnt that there would be several Barisan manifestos for this election: the main one for the whole country, one for women and the other for the young.

Several crucial states, especially the ones Barisan is trying to recapture, would also have their own proposal which have yet to get approval from Najib.

As for the candidates' list, Najib's headache seem to be the choice of the proposed mentris besar for Kedah and Selangor - two states that Barisan is keenest to recapture.

"Without the proposed chief minister named in advance of the elections, Najib will find it difficult to convince voters that the BN was serious about recapturing the states," said one senior aide.

The Barisan headquarters has only just started issuing banners, bunting, computers and other infrastructure support this week and this is supposed to go on for at least two weeks for the items to get to the grassroots level.

The aide said it would take about a week for all these to be sorted out even as Najib continues on his punishing pace not only within the country but around the region as well.

In the past two days, he has been in Singapore where he was wooing major investors to Johor.

He is off to Sarawak from today till Friday.

On Saturday, he will be in Kuala Terengganu and in Kuala Pilah, Negri Sembilan the next day.

On February 28, Najib is due to meet with his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra in Putrajaya over joint border plans.

This means the only time he has left to review all outstanding issues will be next week, leaving Najib with only the first week of March to see the King.

The Election Commission (EC) has always said it would take them at least four weeks to organise polls and the EC is the only one which can fix the dates for nomination and polling.

It has also promised that this time round the campaign period will be at least 10 days with some reports saying it may be stretch up to 14 days especially to accommodate the postal and advance voting for Malaysian overseas and the security forces.

Other Barisan leaders claim that Najib would want to avoid the period from March 29 to April 4 for polling.

This, they say, is because Good Friday falls on March 29 and Easter on March 31 while the Chinese grave sweeping custom of Qing Ming falls on April 4.

As April 4 is a Thursday, many Chinese families will choose their ancestral grave cleaning rituals over the weekend of April 6 and 7.

Many Chinese travel back to their hometown to do this and polling on this weekend would prove to be unpopular.

Defence Ministry officials also pointed out that the bi-annual defence exhibition Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition will be held from March 26 to March 30. They admit that the exhibition could influence Najib's thinking on the choice of polling dates.

A senior Barisan leader pointed out that the first state to end its term is actually Negri Sembilan on March 26 and not Johor on March 21 as widely reported. The Johor assembly expires on April 21.

"But this does not matter very much because Najib will still have to ask for the King to dissolve Parliament earlier so that all the states could have the same polling day as the federal one," the leader said.