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Monday, January 31, 2011

Pundits’ crystal ball shows snap polls

Bolstered by the recent by-election victories, analysts predict that Najib will call for a snap general election in the next six months.

PETALING JAYA: The ruling coalition is now riding on the wave of popular support while its rival is sinking under the weight of infighting.

And analysts predict that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will strike while the iron is hot and call for a snap general election in the next six months.

Barisan Nasional’s confidence has been bolstered by its recent by-election victories in Tenang yesterday and Galas last November.

More coal was added to the furnace when Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin remarked yesterday that BN is ready for a general election.

Gazing into his crystal ball, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) chairman Ramon Navaratnam predicted a snap election by the end of the year since the timing is right.

“BN is enjoying a feel-good factor after victories in Tenang and Galas. It may not bode well for the ruling coalition to wait longer than that as other issues may crop up,” he told FMT.

Ramon said while Malaysians yearned for a strong opposition, Pakatan Rakyat, however, has to do some serious soul-searching to heal its wounded public image.

“People are unhappy with the infighting. With not much choice, the people will vote for a government that is showing some results,” he said.

However, it is not all grim on the tarrot cards for the opposition.

Ramon said that if the Anwar Ibrahim-helmed Pakatan can get its act together, then the tide may swing in its favour.

He also reminded the government to pick up the pace on its transformation programmes as the people are anticipating swift changes.

As for the Chinese vote bank, Ramon said there is a significant swing in favour of BN in Tenang but the coalition needs to work harder to convince the community.

“The community has been given a better deal but if the government steps up by being fair to all and provides better schemes for the low-income group, the tide can change for the better,” he said.

Najib’s 1Malaysia well accepted

Concurring with Ramon, USM political scientist Sivamurugan Pandian said Najib’s 1Malaysia concept has hit a high note with Malaysians.

“There is much acceptance of Najib’s economic transformation plans as well,” he said, referring to the New Economic Model (NEM) and the Economic Transformation Plan (ETP).

On the political front, he said there is better coordination among BN component parties and its election machinery is more focused now than in 2008.

However, Sivamurugan expected BN to hold a general election late this year or early next year as it needs to focus on the Sarawak state polls, which is due in July.

Najib’s ETP also needs time to show results. Therefore, one year should be enough for him to show some progress to Malaysians,” he said.

As for Chinese votes, the political scientist said there is a gradual increase in support but it cannot be assumed that the community is solidly behind BN.

“BN should focus on getting between 30% and 35% Chinese votes and a combined Chinese and Indian votes of 12% to win the snap polls,” he said.

Why allow foe to recover?

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng also agreed that the ruling coalition is enjoying the upper hand at this juncture.

“Based on current sentiments, it is best that BN calls for snap polls within six months. Why allow your opponents to recover?” he said, urging Pakatan to set its house in order.

On whether the Chinese will back BN, he said the crystal ball is fuzzy on this as the community is more politically savvy and aware of the government’s role in providing for the people.

“The Chinese are influenced by many things such as the happenings in foreign countries. Besides, the Chinese press is more critical in their reporting compared to other dailies,” he said.

Khoo said that while an effective public relations campaign by the government may convince other communities, the Chinese are less moved.

“They like to see more in terms of equality, democracy and freedom of religion. So it will be tough for MCA to convince them as the community is aware they cannot depend on the party,” he said. - FMT

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