The 13th General Election in Malaysia

There are now intense rumours that Najib will call for a snap general election soon. Malaysia’s next general election (the 13th) must be held, latest by 2013.

Reuters has the following story:

“…Malaysia’s reluctance to upset its majority Malay population has led to reversal of government decisions and reform pullbacks that are fuelling talk Prime Minister Najib Razak may be readying for a snap election…” (Read here)

Rumours had already been circulating since the beginning of the year, that Najib would call for a snap election mainly due to the rise in support for Malay ethnocracy (via PERKASA: read here) undermining his own position in UMNO while his administration’s weak performance (e.g. policy flip-flops, inability to address long-standing issues such as corruption, police brutality, weak economic fundamentals, etc: read here) has made him unpopular with middle Malaysia.

In fact, as early as March, Reuters had already suggested that Najib would call a snap poll:

“…Malaysia’s recent pullback on fiscal reforms has fuelled talk that the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak is gearing up for snap polls even though the next general elections are not due until 2013.” (Read here)

When Najib was asked recently on the possibility of snap polls, he had this to say:

“…I cannot say one way or the other. If it (general election) happens, it will be a surprise.” (Read herehere and here).

A recent poll conducted in early June 2010, indicated that 72% of Malaysians were happy with Najib (The media release of the survey is available here under the title “Malaysian voters have mixed views on government KPIs – survey”).

Dr. Mahathir and many others sarcastically responded that Najib should quickly call for an election, now that an overwhelming number of Malaysians like him.

The clearest sign that an election is forthcoming was the approval of an additional RM500, 000 in addition to the RM1 million that they had already received, for all members of parliament from the ruling coalition. (Read here and here)

p.s. Note that opposition members of parliament do not have access to government funds although this contravenes Malaysia’s constitution (read here) but then again this is Malaysia.

No doubt, the opposition have also been preparing, with the Islamic party (PAS) being the most impressive while Anwar’s party has been absolutely dismal plagued with infighting.  The man himself maybe on his last legs as the government closes down on him through the sodomy case.

The WSJ has an excellent analysis on PAS which runs counter to the general perception (read here).

There have also been calls for opposition run state governments to call for early polls so as to free resources for the federal elections (read here). This would definitely turn the tables on Najib, as it is likely that the PR would retain these states seeing that they have been run more efficiently than under the BN.

Nevertheless, the best way for Najib to move forward on his reform agenda is to call for a poll - to gain a fresh mandate and also to find out what Malaysians think of him. After all, like Julia Gillard, he was not elected by the people of Malaysia and neither was he elected by the members of his party. The warlords put him there and hence he is beholden to them (Najib became Prime Minister through a transition plan that saw a no contest rule at the UMNO party level).

By seeking a mandate from the people, should he win, Najib would free himself from the shackles of warlords in UMNO.

About Greg Lopez

Greg Lopez is a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Political and Social Change, Australian National University.