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Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Saturday, 26th January 2008:

If Anwar is not a factor, why Abdullah cannot wait less than  two  months to allow the former DPM to contest in the 12th general election? 

“Tell it to the marines” – that will be the common response to the statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in CNN’s World News Asia telecast live from Davos, Switzerland yesterday that former deputy prime minister,  Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was not a factor in his decision on the timing of the next general election.  (“Telling it to the marines” is the scornful response to a tall and unbelieved story/claim.) 

Asserting that he was not pre-empting the former deputy prime minister from contesting the general election, Abdullah said:

“There are other factors in my mind that I have to think about before I recommend the dissolution of parliament and fix the date for the elections.”

If Anwar is not a factor in his calculations for the next polls, Abdullah  should explain why he cannot wait less than  two  months to allow the former DPM to contest in the 12th general election? 

Is it because Abdullah has been advised by his strategists and the Putrajaya fourth-storey advisers that the electoral  prospects for the Barisan Nasional can only get worse and not better, especially if Anwar is allowed to participate personally in the hustings as a candidate?

The latest opinion poll should be a “shocker” for Abdullah and the Barisan Nasional leaders, as it found that the Prime Minister’s approval rating has hit a personal low, slipping from a high of 91 per cent when he took power in late 2003 to  61 per cent in December last month, the lowest since he took office in late 2003  and down by 10 percentage points from November.

The poll by market research firm Merdeka Center found that as the country gears up for early elections, voters were  unhappy over rising prices, racial tensions and crime – issues which the DAP had been hammering over the past few months and years! 

Abdullah’s statement “There are other factors in my mind that I have to think about before I recommend the dissolution of parliament and fix the date for the elections” is very wrong for another reason.

Under Malaysia’s system of parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister has the sole discretion to decide when to recommend the dissolution of Parliament to the Yang di  Pertuan Agong but once  Parliament is dissolved, it is the constitutional duty of the Election Commission to conduct the general election, including the issue of the election writ  and the fixing of the Nomination and Polling dates.

It is unconstitutional and gross abuse of power for the Prime Minister not only to recommend the date for the dissolution of Parliament, but also to fix dates for nomination and polling, in effect deciding on the length of the campaign period – which is the sole prerogative of the Election Commission! 

Thus, when Abdullah told CNN interview that  he had various factors to think about before he recommended “the dissolution of parliament and fix the date for the elections”, he was making a confession that in the 2004 general election, he had acted unconstitutionally and abused the powers of a Prime Minister in fixing the election dates of nomination and polling – providing the shortest election campaign period in the nation’s history -  when this should be decided by the Election Commission without interference or directive from the Prime Minister! 

Is Abdullah prepared to own up to his past unconstitutional action and abuses of power and fully respect the untrammeled right of the Election Commission to fix the dates for nomination and polling for the 2008 general election without any directive from the Putrajaya fourth storey? 

It is clear that as far as Abdullah is concerned, the polling day for the next general election will be in the first half of March.  March 15 was the favourite day as this was said to be recommended by his feng shui master. 

The March 15 date will have to be ruled out however if Abdullah is serious about his announcement in Madrid last week when attending the First Alliance of Civilisations Annual Forum that he would be in Senegal to hand over the chairmanship of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) at the OIC Summit in Dakar on March 13-14. 

On the other hand, this could be a ruse – as Abdullah could either request for a postponement of the OIC Summit or finally skip the OIC Summit on the ground of having a general election in Malaysia.

Be that as it may, there is no reason for Abdullah to act with such secrecy when he should be  setting  an example of “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” as  Prime Ministers and Presidents of first-world developed nations give several months’ notice of the election day, and not like in Malaysia, where there is lightning notice for the shortest period for election campaign provided by an unfair and undemocratic election law.

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


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