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Is the next general election likely to be held before 50th Merdeka Anniversary celebrations of August 31 as a result of Machap and Ijok by-elections?


Media Statement        
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Parliament, Friday) : Is the next general election likely to be held before 50th Merdeka Anniversary celebrations of August 31 as a result of the Machap and Ijok by-elections? 

Until now I had completely ruled out the possibility of the next general election being held before August 31 as the hundreds of million of ringgit that will be splurged all over the  country to celebrate our half-a-century of nationhood would have been planned with an eye to recreate the “feel good euphoria” which had been so successful in the 2004 general election to give the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi an unprecedented victory mandate of 91% of the parliamentary seats. 

There have been two schools of thought among the election strategists in Umno and Barisan Nasional. – whether the next general election should be held next year before end of April when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim regains his civil right enfranchisement to stand for elective office or latter part of this year. 

As a result of the Machap and Ijok by-elections, the third option of a general election before the 50th Merdeka Anniversary celebrations on August 31 appears to be  seriously on the cards. 

Those who advocate early polls even before the splash of the 50th Merdeka anniversary celebrations are worried that the longer the next general election is delayed, the worse it is going to be for the ruling coalition as Abdullah’s stocks can only further plummet with his proven inability to fulfill his 2004 general election pledge to lead a clean, incorruptible, accountable, transparent, efficient, democratic,  just and people-oriented government. 

Umno and Barisan Nasional leaders who have various serious allegations hanging over their heads also want early polls to end their agony so that they can start on a new slate by claiming  personal vindication with a Barisan Nasional election victory. 

Although the local stock market hit an all-time high yesterday with the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (KLCI) rising to a record 1,342.79 points,  there is considerable nervousness as to how long such a bullish situation can last.   

This anxiety has been exacerbated by  more and more frequent warnings of an impending global stock market crash and worldwide recession.  

Only early this week, Morgan Stanley former star economist Andy Xie warned of an imminent stock market crash in China.

Xie told Reuters in a pre-May Day telephone interview "I think it's going to be bust very soon", adding that a combination of excess liquidity, rising inflation and rich valuations would result in a global crash soon.

Xie said: “People will be surprised. When the end comes, it's going to be pretty bad."

Despite outward exultation over the by-election victory, Umno and Barisan Nasional leaders knew that their Ijok win is a Pyrrhic victory which is not sustainable in a general election. 

With the manpower poured into the by-election including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the entire Cabinet, the various Barisan Nasional State Governments and taking into account all expenditures by the Federal and State governments, the  Barisan Nasional component parties, and expenses like the cash payments ranging from a few hundreds to RM1,500 per vote in the “buy-election”, easily totaling some  RM100 million, the Ijok by-election rightly earns the notoriety as the dirtiest election campaign in  the nation’s 50 year history. 

But Umno and Barisan Nasional leaders are not in the least uplifted by the Ijok by-election result, as is evident from their public vacillation and disarray about its  meaning and implications. 

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak came out with a new “spin” to claim that Chinese support in Ijok for the Barisan Nasional had not dropped as drastically as some had claimed, as if he did not know that it was none other than the Prime Minister who had expressed alarm at  the swing of Chinese voters in Ijok to the Opposition and wanting to know why from MCA and Gerakan. 

Why the public vacillation and  twist-and-turn of Umno, MCA and Gerakan leaders over the swing of Chinese voters in Ijok to the Opposition, which even attracted an editorial in the Umno-owned New Straits Times yesterday, “Wooing back the Chinese”? 

The reason is very simple – no MCA or Gerakan leader dare to tell Umno  leaders the truth for the swing of Chinese voters by standing up in Cabinet and the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council to demand retraction and apology for  statements and actions of Umno leaders which had “hurt the feelings” of the Chinese, as well as about the injustices and abuses of Barisan Nasional  policies, especially in the arbitrary extension of the New Economic Policy when it was a 20-year policy which was to end in 1990. 

This explained the arrogant response of the Umno Youth leader Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday, justifying his “keris-wielding” exhibitions in the context of extremist and communal demands completely heedless of the rights and sensitivities of all communities in the country. Clearly, Hishammuddin has won over MCA and MCA Youth leaders to publicly defend his “keris-wielding” outbursts. 

But all this are sheer bravado and there is a growing feeling in Umno and Barisan Nasional that the third option of holding the next general election even earlier than had been seriously considered previously  – i.e. before the 50th Merdeka Anniversary celebrations on August 31 - should be given very serious consideration to secure the best possible results for the Barisan Nasional.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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