PM (now caretaker) Ismail Sabri’s dissolution of Parliament on Monday to make way for GE15 caught a number of people by surprise, especially those in the Opposition bloc.
It was a surprise, yet not surprising. The words Bubar Parlimen (Dissolve Parliament) have been on every other person’s lips and every other social media posting. But when it actually happened and you know that GE15 is set to take place within the next few weeks, all hell seems to have broken loose!
Interestingly, Ismail issued a press statement on Tuesday, detailing why he had to dissolve Parliament. He has blamed it on the 12 Perikatan Nasional (PN) ministers who recently penned a letter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) to record their objections for the 15th general election (GE15) to be held within this year.
He said the action had undermined the prime minister’s institution and the solidarity among members of the federal administration. He had also said that a remark by PN chairman Muhyiddin Yassin declaring that the main enemy of Perikatan was BN had sowed division as Ismail is with BN.
222 Parliament Seats For GE15
With all that has been happening prior to the dissolution, are the political parties and candidates that want a seat in Parliament ready for battle at the ballot box?
For the moment, BN seems the most organised and coordinated. The coalition is made up of Umno, MCA, MIC in the lead, with GPRS in Sabah and other associate parties in the wings. The biggest worry is choosing the 222 candidates to contest in all the seats as BN has said they would ‘go solo’. They would only think of pairing with another party should the need arises after the election.
However, according to an insider, one of the party’s biggest worries is funding. Now that political funding is being scrutinised as a result of cases involving former ministers, especially former PM Najib Razak who is serving a prison sentence for just that and Umno President Zahid Hamidi having 47 charges still hanging over him, supporters and sponsors are a bit wary of the money trail being led back to them if they were to donate.
The Bossku Factor
Another setback that the coalition has to deal with is the unavailability of its iconic Bossku, Najib Razak, now in Kajang prison. Many observers, both in and out of the party, are aware that Najib has been behind the rise and rise of BN after its defeat in GE14.
Despite all the numerous cases they have charged him for, some to the point of ridiculousness, not to mention contrary to any sense of justice, he has stood tall for the past four years.
Like the mythical phoenix rising out of the ashes, Najib has given back to the coalition its dignity, converting the fence sitters and scores of Chinese and Indian voters who, in 2018, were trigger-happy to vote BN out of its 60-year rule. Interestingly, Najib has even captured the attention of the younger generation, and apart from all these, amazing victories in Melaka and Johor State elections and scores of by-elections.
Nevertheless, BN has always been about the party. Putting money politics aside for now as that is no longer a question, what they have is the will to do their best, to put up a brave front in from of the voters and to keep their promises once they win – something PH failed to do in their 22 months in office from May 2018.
The Opposition, comprising a mish-mash of parties that got together to win GE14, broke up in the midst of 22 miserable months, left the coalition to form new parties and teamed up with the opposition then to lead the country. Thereafter they failed miserably and are now struggling to regain the trust of the voters after such failures, so they are therefore upset at having to go to the polls so soon.
Regardless of the above, it is interesting to note that these opposition parties, whether on their own or as a coalition, have been working hard on the ground.
Despite them having astronomical funds from groups in US and Europe, they are still organising crowdfunding and fundraising dinners all over the country. This is aimed at not just to get whatever little bits of money the voters have, they want to create the perception that they are poor and are working on sunshine, fresh air and love for the voters and the country.
Whether this kind of miserable play by the Opposition will work with the voters this time is left to be seen, because many of the voters are presumably a lot wiser now. Especially when its been disclosed that the opposition parties and PH-friendly NGOs like Bersih and C4 have been receiving funds from overseas groups like NED to topple a legitimately-elected government (BN) long before GE14.
They have also gone on roadshows to garner support for their respective parties. And in the midst, they have been harping on Umno for not caring about the people by pushing for an election during the heavy monsoon season that will bring in the massive floods as in previous years. Because of this, some of the PH-backed states like Selangor and Penang have insisted that they will not dissolve their respective state assemblies to have state polls at the same time as GE15.
With all these going on, what are the analysts’ opinions on the action by the mentioned states?
BN Well-Prepared for GE15
“Obviously Barisan has always been well prepared from the beginning. The opposition prefers to hold until next year so that at least the MPs can have full term,” said Dr K S Balakrishnan, Senior Academician at UM’s Department of International and Strategic Studies.
“The confidence for the election is UMNO’s position, so the entire BN has to follow, like it or not. The Budget 2023 is basically a continuation of similar policies,” he said.
He added that as BN is now confident with the victory in the recent Melaka and Johor state assemblies, they can get two third, or minimum around 60% of the Parliament seats. Since 1MDB and other cases are under the purview of the courts, the opposition will find it tough to campaign as they are without issues.
“There is rumbling within UMNO, considering the PM himself is sort of third or fourth ranking in the leadership hierarchy, but this will be sorted out after the election.
“We have had some experience when states had different time for election, dissolving and re-election. That is an issue or scenario that can be handled.
“For BN, it has always been consistently on prepared mode, unlike the opposition parties, so now is the time for them to go for it,” Dr Bala opined.
Global Economic Recession in the Cards
According to Dr Nor Hisham Mohd Nor, executive chairman of an international legal firm, it is important for GE15 to be held now as the country is running out of time to face the global economic recession predicted to start next year.
“The prediction of a world economic recession in 2023 was not ‘designed’ by BN, but based on the reporting of international financial and economic organisations.
“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) three months ago projected the outlook for the global economy to ‘darken significantly’ from April 2022 and predicted the world to face an economic recession soon,” said Dr Nor Hisham who has more than 20 years of service record with the Malaysian government holding various positions in the Prime Minister’s Department, Military Intelligence, Political Analysis and International and Domestic Security of the country.
He added that IMF is even said to be lowering its forecast for global economic growth this year for the third time and its economists reportedly want to finalise new figures.
“A leading investment institute based in the United States predicts that the world economic recession may occur earlier, i.e. at the end of this year.
Recession as Early as this Year
“This means that there is only less than three months left before the ‘recession’ that will affect most countries begins, or worse it may happen as early as December this year.”
He said that because of this, Malaysia really needs a stable and strong government to be able to move in the same direction in organising effective measures and strategies to protect Malaysia from the adverse impact of the economic downturn.
Professor Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, meanwhile considers the holding of Parliament and state elections separately will further put a dent on the country’s coffers as the costs will be high.
“Apparently it can reach up to RM2 billion, as all the manpower, logistics and related facilities will have to be doubled.”
Prof Siva added that our constitution does not indicate that state elections should be held together with Parliament as the prerogative stays with state MB/CM to advise the state palace or governors.
“When the Opposition, and even PAS states say that they would like to focus on the floods and the affected people rather than on the elections, it could also be a protest against the PM’s decision after the 12 PN MPs in the Cabinet wrote a letter to YDPA not to give consent to having GE this year.”
According to Professor Madya Dr Zulkanain Abdul Rahman, Head of UM’s History Department, normally the dissolution of Parliament will be followed by the dissolution of state assemblies.
“A simultaneous election (parliamentary and state elections being held at the same time) will be cost saving for the Elections Commission (EC) and make it easy for voters to vote for both the parliament and state seats.
“But, up till today, only Perak, Pahang and Perlis have agreed to dissolve their state assemblies and I
think it is not a smart move for the opposition parties to agree to the said elections to be held separately.
“Take for example the previous elections in Johor and Melaka. The whole BN machinery was able to give its undivided focus on the two states and as a result, BN scored easy wins in both states,” the Prof Madya added. – NMH
About the writer: Carole Raymond Abdullah is a freelance writer who used to domicile in Hongkong for many years. She is now back in Malaysia, totally surprised at the turn of events in the country lately.
The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.