Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is certainly one of the nation's most powerful men despite the fact that he has retired from active politics.
Widely known as Dr M, he still exerts a great amount of influence in the Najib administration as he has carved a name for himself with his sharp comments and acidic remarks on any and every issue ranging from current policies to attacks on the Pakatan Rakyat. His views and opinions till this date are still much sought after by the media.
His recent statement that it is better for the BN Government to hold the 13th General Election next year certainly merits some thinking among UMNO party strategists. This is due to the fact that Dr M is himself a master strategist himself and therefore his opinion will carry weight. No one can stay in power for 22 years by being clueless on strategy!
At this point in time, Prime Minister Najib Razak is mulling over whether to increase the electricity tariff or to reduce the subsidy of RON 95 petrol or to execute both or to do neither. The Prime Minister is actually in a quandary as he is due to announce whether or not to hike the electricity rates on 25th May.
He is afraid that any price increase will anger the people thereby resulting in a great catastrophe for BN. To sum up, Najib is in a dilemma on what is the next step to take as a price hike will certainly affect BN's performance in the general election.
Warlords making noise
Truth be told, although Najib is the one helming the nation, he is not the type who takes the bull by the horns. He is not firm or decisive as he tends to waver according to the circumstances. Although he is the captain of the ship, he is not the master and commander unlike Dr M who can make firm decisions based on his own reading of the situations.
Dr M's suggestion that the general election be held next year does indeed cast a pall on the Najib Administration as the latter is unable to shake off the influence of the former. Dr M knows what to do and when to do it. He dares to bite the bullet.
Still, the situation in UMNO is not to Najib's liking. There are many undercurrents going on besides rumblings of discontent among the UMNO warlords. Najib wants to call for a general election this year to consolidate his position before the growing chorus of dissent from amongst the UMNO warlords gets out of control and unsettles the entire party. According to pundits, his position is quite shaky and a win in the general election will silence his foes from within and without.
But in order to hold elections, the first thing that one needs to do is to decide on the candidates list and there is much jostling for positions within UMNO. The longer he holds off the polls, the much louder the infighting and competition.
On the other hand, Dr M has recalled the situation in the 1999 General Election where the sacking of his then Deputy and Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim had contributed to the loss of Terengganu to PAS.
To protest Anwar's incarceration, the Malays had expressed their discontent through the ballot box. And it was only the Chinese and the Indians fencesitters who helped BN to pull through at that point in time.
Overkill and the long shadow of Dr M
The current continuous demonisation of Anwar that is being practised by BN may backfire as it has caused the Malay mind to feel disgusted.
These attacks on Anwar can be 'overkill' and could trigger the Malay psyche to go for change. 'Dah melampaui batas' (or 'too much') is already buzzing around the community and the BN should watch their step.
Because this time, BN will not have the cushion of support from the Chinese and the Indians.
So perhaps, Dr M's view that the general election should be held next year does hold some water as it will allow public anger to cool somewhat. Currently, the constant image of BN bullying and browbeating Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and the Pakatan have counter-productive effects in BN's disfavour.
Najib has also declared the general election date was a favourite national past-time. But perhaps, he is trying to mask his own uncertainty in regards to what could be the biggest step for him and his family.
Not only is the prime minister's chair at stake, so is his presidency of UMNO and the future of his children in the party.
If he cannot make up his mind, chances are he will end up listening to the Doctor's advice. Of course this will imply that Dr M is still the de-facto leader of the nation. But Malaysians have guessed that long ago. The shadow of Dr M certainly sits heavy on Najib.