Better odds next year

Better odds next

MANY people mistakenly assume that the next general election has to be held by March 8,2013 because that would be exactly five years after the last election, which was on March 8,2008.

Actually, Parliament will only have to be dissolved five years from the date of the first parliamentary session after a general election (in this case, it was April 28,2008). As such, the very last day to dissolve Parliament is April 28,2013. But that's not the very last day to hold the election.

A general election has to be called within 60 days of Parliament's dissolution. What that means is, if Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak wants to, he could wait until June 28,2013 to hold the general election.

Yes, that's right. He theoretically has more than a year left, if he wants to stretch it. The big question is whether he should. Let's look at some of the factors he should consider.

There has been intense speculation that polls would be in June. All my sources in Pakatan Rakyat seem to be convinced. Apparently, election materials have been ordered. But all these can be easily put in storage until they are needed. Still, many were - and some still are - convinced it will be in June.

The economy is commonly cited as a reason for earlier polls. Who knows how bad it will be later on, people say. But I'm not convinced that the possibility of a worse economic situation should be a key factor in deciding whether or not to hold earlier polls. Who's to say the economy won't improve?

A more important reason for holding earlier elections is that the longer he waits, the more scandals could emerge. If you look at the past year, issue after issue has emerged that has put Barisan Nasional on the defensive.

The Cowgate scandal is far from resolved. Then there's the spat with Bersih, which is doing the government no favours. There's also the Lynas issue. And the French Scorpene investigation. Who knows what else will crop up if the election is delayed?

But holding the election in June is highly risky. A recent survey by Merdeka Center showed that some 92% of the respondents want the electoral rolls cleaned before a general election. If the Bersih 3.0 rally didn't convince the government that people are unhappy about the electoral system, this independent survey should.

Holding the election later will allow for some electoral reforms to be implemented, and thus assuage some of the concerns that the fence-sitters theone who will really make a difference in GE13 haveabout the electoral system.

It's true that holding the election later would give Pakatan Rakyat more time to get ready. But stretching it out longer also tires out the opposition, which has been on election footing since last year. They are now in full election mode. How long can they keep this up?

Holding the election later will also make it harder for PR to hold their state elections at a different date. If the federal election were to be called in June, it's almost certain that Selangor would hold its state election at a later date, and Penang would probably do so too. But if it's held in say, January 2013, neither Selangor nor Penang will have a good reason to delay their state elections.

It's much better for BN if federal and state elections are held at the same time for the simple reason that it has far more resources than PR. Its election machinery can go at full steam for both federal and state elections while PR's campaign would be stretched thin.

Holding out also gives Najib the chance to push hard for at least a few substantial reforms to kick in, and therefore win over some of the fence-sitters. Of course, if reforms are not forthcoming or get heavily watered down, then there would be a backlash.

So, should he wait until later? It's riot an obvious choice because there are too many potential negatives attached to it. But on the whole it's probably a less-worse option than an imminent election. As such, I no longer think it'll be in June, or in September as many now think it will be, but sometime next year. Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant. Comments:

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