By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
The long wait is finally over when the Prime Minister announced the dissolution of Parliament on Wednesday, April 3. The guessing game went on for over a year as many Malaysians had expected the dissolution to take place in March 2012. In the process one state government was automatically dissolved after having outlived its tenure. Had not the April 3 announcement been made, a few more state governments, including that of Perak, would have acquired similar distinction. The legitimacy of the Negeri Sembilan’s state legislature ended on March 28, the first ever in the nation’s recorded history.
The much-awaited announcement was made at 11.32am on Wednesday, April 3, two days after April Fools’ Day. It was carried live by national television and, in default, by satellite television and telecasted worldwide.
In making the announcement the Prime Minister gave his commitment to respect and preserve the democratic process and the choice made by the people. He went further by saying that “any transition of power would be conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner in tandem with democratic principles, the politics of transformation and national interest.”
Najib’s assurance is definitely something cheery to hear, as rumours are abound that a difficult transition would ensue if the inevitable happens.
The Perak State Assembly was dissolved the same day after Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir had sought the consent of the acting Sultan. On the auspicious day the state assemblies of Perlis, Malacca and Sabah were similarly dissolved.
Exactly a week after the dissolution, the Election Commission, on Wednesday, April 10, announced the dates for nomination, campaigning and polling. Malaysians will exercise their rights to vote on Sunday, May 5 while those seeking a new term in office will announce their candidacy on Saturday, April 20. Campaigning period will last for 15 days, the longest since the first parliamentary and state elections in 1959.
Eyes will of course be focused on Perak. Speculations are rife, considering the publicity the state had garnered since the “ouster” of the Nizar-led Pakatan Rakyat government on February 6, 2009.
I have been approached several times to give my prediction. As in any given case the strength of incumbency holds sway. The odds are obviously on the Opposition in making an impact on voters’ choice. But like they say, anything can happen. Najib’s dithering has its advantages. It provided Opposition parties with ample time to exercise their skills in convincing the electorate. And they did it in many ways – both subtle and not so subtle. Of the three major parties making the informal Pakatan Rakyat coalition PAS is most vocal. Its youth wing has been in overdrive mode since early last year.
The party’s Strategic and Issues Committee has made several complaints, the latest being the Election Commission’s choice of April 20 as Nomination Day for candidates vying in the 13th general election. “It’s a day after the Sultan of Perak’s 85th birthday on April 19. We expressed regrets over the insensitivity of the Commission in fixing dates for GE13. We request that the Commission seeks the Sultan’s forgiveness in appointing April 20 as Nomination Day.” That was the gist of its letter to the media. I expect complaints of every nature to come my way as the deadline for the upcoming election approaches. Even the seemingly dubious sale of the Perak House in Penang is not spared. More dirty linen will be out in the open soon. One needs to keep an ear to the ground to hear the rumblings.
Party nomination is a closely watched affair, especially the naming of candidates contesting in high-profile parliamentary and state seats. Imran Abdul Hamid, a former naval officer, will contest in the Lumut parliamentary constituency. Imran is nominated on a PAS ticket. Perak Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir is coy about Imran contesting in his backyard. “This is a democratic process and anyone can stand for election,” he remarked.
The jostling for seats has long begun and no party is spared this phenomenon. Although Zambry has several times declared that everything is hunky dory within the Perak Barisan Nasional fold, the conflicting announcements by MIC leaders about the Sungai Siput parliamentary seat is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether the infamous frogs would be reassigned their seats is a foregone conclusion. If winnable candidates, as espoused by Najib and Zambry, be the criterion, fielding these “frogies” will be one regrettable mistake no one is prepared to commit.
There are four sets of voters, although my Oracle said three. One is the first-time voters, those within the 21 to 25 age gap. These youngsters are IT savvy and will vote for change, as they have nothing to lose or fear. Next is the 30 to 45 age group, those with a career to pursue and a family to feed. They will prefer that the current status quo be maintained. Then comes the retirees and pensioners, some with sentimental attachments to the Old Order, some without. They will vote according to their whims and urging. The fourth is the fence sitters. This group of people are the most difficult. Whoever manages to convince them will win the race.
I am with the third group and my mind is made up. What about you?