IT’S quite obvious by now – Barisan Nasional has begun preparing the groundwork for the next general election that is speculated to be held by early or middle of next year.
Over the past few weeks, the Prime Minister and his deputy have been dropping hints to Barisan component leaders to gear up for the elections.
At the opening of the MIC general assembly, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Barisan parties to resolve their internal bickering, if they have any.
The message seems to be directed at the MCA, which is trying to end its leadership crisis after more than a year. As the second largest component party, there is no way the coalition can go to the polls without the MCA ending its feud, which has badly affected the party’s image and credibility.
Party insiders say the two factions in the MCA are trying to reach a solution ahead of the party general assembly in July.
In Sabah, Dr Mahathir reminded his audience at the Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah congress on Friday about Barisan’s concept of power sharing. His presence at the meeting was certainly a testimony to what he said because the PBRS is one of the smallest parties in the 14-member coalition.
Tracing the formation of Umno, Dr Mahathir said Barisan had been effective because Malaysia was one of the most successful developing nations today.
More election talk was uttered in Terengganu when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stepped up his campaign against PAS by criticising the way in which the Islamist party had been running the state.
Expressing regret that the PAS state government had opposed the setting up of two Mara junior science colleges in Terengganu, Abdullah said the action had deprived Terengganu students of getting an education in the state.
More salvos can be expected over the coming months. Next month, the Umno general assembly will be held for four days from June 18 at the Putra World Trade Centre.
It is likely to be the largest party general assembly as the nation awaits Dr Mahathir’s final message at the meeting. He is also scheduled to speak to members on June 17 at a closed-door meeting in the run-up to the general assembly.
It will be MCA’s turn on July 12, where Dr Mahathir has been invited to open the party’s general assembly at the Dewan San Choon. From June 1, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik and other party leaders will attend the various state conventions ahead of the assembly.
These meetings are crucial because they will serve as a platform for the leaders to send a clear message to their grassroots members.
MCA leaders would have to seriously examine their priorities, as well as that of Barisan, as the clock ticks away. They have to prove to the Chinese community that they can place the people’s interest first and that message would have to be emphasised at the general assembly.
The setting up of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman and the on-going fund-raising campaign is evident of what the MCA can do when its leaders put their hearts into a particular project.
The feud in the MCA has been a fight over party and government positions – nothing else. It is clear that the patience of Barisan elders is running thin and the MCA leaders must resolve their differences now.
The Umno and MCA general assemblies would probably be the last before the next general election.
It is unlikely that the polls would be held this year as the calendar of the Prime Minister is packed until October, when the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit would be held in Kuala Lumpur.
Once Abdullah takes over the helm, he would have to seek a fresh mandate for his leadership and a certain period of preparation would be needed before the polls are called.
The opposition, too, has been busy getting ready for the general election. PAS secretary-general Nasharuddin Mat Isa said the party, together with Parti Keadilan Nasional and Parti Rakyat Malaysia which are in the process of merging, had “roughly agreed on which party will contest where.”
The DAP and Keadilan, according to reports, are also working on an understanding to avoid clashing with each other, particularly in certain constituencies.
The present parliamentary term ends in November next year but Barisan has the option of managing a caretaker government for an additional six months before it calls for the next general election, which will see additional seats in both Parliament and state assemblies.
The Election Commission has drawn up new electoral boundaries, increasing the number of seats in the Dewan Rakyat to 219 from 194, with a total of 505 state assembly seats.
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