Sunday, 4 March 2012

Malaysia's 13th General Election Tell-tale signs, by June or next year?

Tell-tale signs that polls are getting close

Sunday Star, PETALING JAYA: So when will the next general election be held?

Very soon, judging by developments in the last few days.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the halving of toll between Kajang and Kuala Lumpur effective yesterday, just months after the Prime Minister abolished it altogether for the Cheras-Petaling Jaya expressway.

On Tuesday, amid news of growth, it was disclosed that investors have pledged RM9bil in projects in the first two months of the year in the ECER the East Coast Economic Region comprising Johor, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.

Now, the Government is coming to the rescue of commuters in Kelantan with an injection of RM16.1mil to keep bus services in the PAS-controlled state afloat.

This comes on top of ongoing aid programmes, including giving RM500 to families earning less than RM3,000 and RM100 to schoolchildren all of which seems to indicate that the polls could be just around the corner.

A June window period
ON THE BEAT By WONG CHUN WAI

June has suddenly become the favourite month in the guessing game of when the next general election would be called.

There are two key issues that need to be resolved before the elections can be called. They include the Public Service New Remuneration Scheme (SBPA) involving 1.4 million government servants, who form the basis of the government votes.

Last week, Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin said the scheme issue was expected to be resolved by next month, adding that considerable progress had been made so far by the special committee to review the scheme.

“We should wait for the right moment (for it to be announced),” he said after a special meeting with personnel from the public service at Stadium Negara.

The Prime Minister had ordered a review of the scheme after criticism from government servants that it was lopsided and only benefited top civil servants.

There had been reports that under the proposed SBPA, certain categories of senior officers would enjoy a salary increase of at least 50%, which worked out to an average of RM5,000 per month.

The top government officers in the premier grades would get their salaries adjusted by between RM30,000 and RM60,000 a month, which understandably caused much unhappiness among the rank and file.

The quick intervention of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to put the scheme on hold has been well received by the civil service with the sentiment that he had put a stop to what many felt was grave injustice. Much progress has since been made to end this impasse.

Muhyiddin’s announcement is pertinent as it gave an indication of how the issue has been resolved.

Another key issue is the proposed listing of Felda Global Ventures Holdings (FGVH), which Felda group chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad said had received the support of its 112,000-odd settlers.

Last week, he gave an assurance that the settlers would retain full ownership of their land and benefit directly from any potential revenue realised from the listing exercise. He also said the settlers’ holdings in Koperasi Permodalan Felda (KPF) would be untouched.

The Felda settlers’ interest would be directly protected by a special purpose vehicle (SPV) and any potential proceeds resulting from the proposed listing would not be channelled through KPF, but through the SPV, he added.

KPF has about 220,000 members, 112,635 of them settlers. The rest are Felda employees and the children of settlers.

There has been talk that FGVH’s market capitalisation could reach as high as RM21bil upon listing, with many of the Felda settlers looking forward to the plans which had received huge coverage in the Bahasa Malaysia dailies.

The civil service and the Felda settlers in the rural constituencies have long been a backbone of the ruling Barisan Nasional and these two concerns obviously needed to be addressed before any elections can be called.

There is another issue that needs closure – the National Feedlot Corporation controversy, which has dogged the headlines. Investigations are being carried out by the police and the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission.

If elections are not called by June, then it is unlikely to take place until next year. Fasting starts at the end of July, with Hari Raya falling in the third week of August while the Haj season begins in September and ends in November.

The Dewan Rakyat is set to begin its 20-day meeting from March 12. This will be followed by a second meeting from June 11 to June 28 (12 days). The final meeting of 34 days, which includes presentation of the Budget, will be from Sept 24 to Nov 27.

The Budget, once tabled, would be debated on until next year when the Dewan Negara meets, before it is officially approved.

In short, June will be Najib’s last window period whether to call for polls. It also coincides with the school holidays, which start on May 26 and end on June 10. If nothing happens, then it is almost a foregone conclusion that it will take place next year.

Preparations for the elections appear to have gone high gear now with Najib making popular announcements almost every few days.

It is understood that the Barisan Nasional chairman has also started to meet individual heads of the various component parties.

The polls seem to be getting nearer for sure. As Najib continues his nationwide whirlwind visits, the urgency and the momentum are picking up.

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