Snap polls likely to be called

THE general consensus now seems to be that an unprecedented snap general election will be called in the country.

The only question now is when it will be held.

While there is no danger of the present government collapsing, its wafer-thin majority is surely disturbing to the Prime Minister.

Although a snap general election isn’t likely to be immediate, things are already in motion.

For now, Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin has been getting good marks from Malaysians for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Malaysia has been acknowledged internationally for its efforts in curbing its spread.

Most Malaysians are satisfied with the way Covid-19 was tackled, despite a few who disagreed with the way the Pakatan Harapan government was toppled and replaced by Perikatan Nasional.

Well-informed sources have also said that internal studies conducted by Perikatan have shown high approval ratings for the government over its various campaigns to assist businesses and Malaysians affected by the economic fallout from Covid-19.

Holding elections amid the pandemic is not a strange idea as it took place in South Korea last April while Singapore recently called for a snap general election.

There were even reports saying that Japan is contemplating elections in September.

Muhyiddin is also said to be the most confident at this point about calling a snap election in a bid to legitimise the Perikatan government, as critics have consistently labelled it a “backdoor government”.

Sources have indicated that if a snap election were to happen, it could take place after the tabling of Budget 2021 in November and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) Summit, which would also be sometime in November, although no one is sure how the summit would be held.

However, should there be any hiccups or last-minute surprises sprung by Pakatan, the tabling of Budget 2021 could be held as early as September to pave the way for an early general election.

Universiti Malaya’s Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the best time to call for elections would be when the pandemic was still under control in Malaysia.

A snap general election will be a costly affair, with an estimated cost of RM600mil, which could well be the most expensive election in the country.

But Prof Awang said Malaysians were in a comfortable mood at present, given the implementation of economic and social welfare programmes to address the Covid-19 economic fallout.

“This was the opportunity seized by South Korea and Japan.

“Perikatan also sees this as a potential opportunity to call for snap elections, ” he said.

It is also important to call for elections now as the feel-good factor could dissipate when the economic downturn peaks by as early as next year.

Reports have indicated that unemployment is expected to rise up to 5.5%, equivalent to 860,000 Malaysians, by the end of the year.

“That is why if snap elections is held in 2021, there is no guarantee that the economy will improve then, ” said Prof Awang, who also described the Covid-19 government roll-outs as Perikatan’s “political shield”.

Critics are also saying that Muhyiddin has to strike when the iron is hot, as Pakatan is still torn over its choice for prime minister candidate, which has not only left its MPs divided but also its supporters.On this matter, Prof Awang said Pakatan needed to have a consensus in naming its choice for prime minister as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s refusal to back Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has disappointed Pakatan grassroots members.

“As long as Pakatan is not united, they are not ready to face snap elections.

“Pakatan grassroots are also disappointed with DAP and Parti Amanah Negara’s leadership support towards Dr Mahathir and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal as prime minister candidate, ” he added.

However, questions are being raised as to whether Muhyiddin has been successful in garnering the support of Umno as a whole, given the way Datuk Seri Najib Razak and several other party leaders were treated following GE14.

Prof Awang also noted that certain factions in Umno were not comfortable with Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and other leaders currently holding ministerial positions in the Perikatan government.

“It is hard for the Umno grassroots to accept Bersatu after how they were treated. It’s just like how it is hard for the PAS grassroots to accept Amanah members back, ” he added.

Amanah was formed in 2015 after progressive leaders were ousted from the Islamist party congress.

Over the years, leaders of both sides have traded barbs with each other.

While the Pakatan and Perikatan tiff is akin to the battle of David and Goliath, Opposition leaders are not perturbed by prospects of a diminishing minority in Parliament; they are hoping for last-minute and surprise “U-turns” by disgruntled Umno MPs on D-Day.

Subang MP Wong Chen said while the Opposition did not have the numbers to trigger snap elections, they could still take place if there was a swing in support by a component partner in Perikatan.

“If the partner votes against Muhyiddin in Parliament, then we have 60 days to prepare for a general election, ” he said.

Wong noted that a snap general election would not be beneficial, as during times of crisis, most Malaysians and investors were more concerned with stability.

“However, if this government turns out to be highly incompetent in managing the economy and/or repressive in the coming months, then the mood of the majority will swing in support of snap polls, ” he added.

A similar idea was also floated by Tanjung Malim and PKR vice-president Chang Lih Kang, who said the prospects of a change in loyalties were possible.

“If Umno engineers the collapse of the Perikatan government, a snap election will happen.

“For instance, if some Umno representatives don’t turn up for an important voting session, the government will collapse, ” he added.

Sources from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) are also saying that its top leaders are mulling a snap state election before the snap general election.

“The priority is to have the state election first, ” said the sources, hinting that it could be called as soon as the recovery movement control order (MCO) was lifted.

Murmurs of state polls were also strengthened by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, who assured Muhyiddin of GPS support for Perikatan following a meeting on July 1.

Last Thursday, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing also declared that Bersatu and PAS would sit out the coming state polls and help GPS.

While it seems that future political plans to strengthen Perikatan are coming full circle, would Pakatan be ready by then to set aside its differences and agree on a candidate for prime minister?

They say a picture speaks a thousand words and Malaysian politicians are always known for their veiled messages.

Pictures featuring Amanah’s Mohamad Sabu and DAP’s Lim Guan Eng together with Anwar have gotten tongues wagging in the political cybersphere.

“#kawantetapkawan (friends will be friends). Remaining together to strengthen the ‘muafakat’ (consensus), ” Anwar captioned on a picture with Lim, which was uploaded on Facebook.

Friendship was also emphasised in Anwar’s picture with Mohamad, also known as Mat Sabu.

Even if DAP and Amanah decide to back Anwar this time, could Pakatan get the support of Dr Mahathir’s four and Parti Warisan Sabah’s nine MPs?

Pakatan’s presidential council is set to meet again next week before the July 13 Parliament session to deliberate on its candidate for prime minister.

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