With the next General Election coming up round the corner, has it become obvious to all that the current Barisan Nasional government is doing what they can to clean up their image? I see their tactics to stir up public sentiment as such, for example, the fuel subsidy:
1. Scare the public - Say that subsidies must be reduced and the Prime Minister mentions that they are like "Opium". Your aunty starts screaming and says to you that everything is so expensive as it is. How do they expect to survive?
2. Prepare the public - All the public service departments come in and say, be prepared and take the necessary measures to cope. The public sulk and then believe that what would come, would come and they would make their feelings felt in the polls.
3. The Government is the Hero - As the ultimate champion of the people, BN now swoops in and tells everyone that they had crunched the numbers, and no price increase is necessary. The public cheers and ratings for the PM and his wonderful leadership go up.
Now I am no psychologist, but this is one way to play with the minds of the public. The signs are clear that the GE is coming. MCA Kepong had their meeting last week, DAP KOMTAR has their fund raising dinner, UMNO Penang have their meeting at the Vistana and UMNO have begun putting their flags up in Kota Damansara. We can smell blood in the water.
Right now, the government is in a precarious position. They know they had done themselves no favours with the handling of the Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim sodomy trial in which it was obvious that it sounded more like a guilty ruling than a call for the defence. The rampant corruption which occurred during the Sarawak polls remains un-investigated and it is clear that the Electoral Commission don't want to do anything about it. On top of the irregularities, there is also the barring of "unfavourables" from the campaign period. Activists being refused entry into Sarawak and put onto the first plane back to KL, just in case they would spread "hideous lies" about the government to the people. To the neutral, it doesn't seem too promising.
However, if they put it off, the question is when? It is obvious that the government intend to increase prices soon, but how long can they put it off. With the need to pay their rampant corruption bills, something has to give soon. There is also a confidence put forward by government polls that the people think that the Prime Minister is doing a good job. That would be encouraging and certainly a platform for BN to campaign on. However, if we want to talk about growth and economic stability, shouldn't they wait for October? I doubt so. The coffers would dry up by then.
So when is the GE going to take place? Well, PKR have already geared up and although the Feng Shui masters must have advised Najib that 2011 is not a good year to go to the polls, he would be committing political suicide if he doesn't. Typically, every new Prime Minister must seek the consent of the general public to ensure he has the mandate to rule. We expected this to happen after the handover from Abdullah Badawi, but it simply didn't materialise. It didn't for good reason. Had elections been called again, the anti-BN sentiment was so high at that point that it was extremely likely that Pakatan Rakyat, riding on popular sentiment, would ride straight into Putrajaya.
In the face of increased scrutiny on the opposition, specifically PKR, BN may have no better time to call an election. However, with opposition governments flourishing, the government would have to mount a serious fight to get opposition run states. I predict the dirtiest dog fight of an election in Malaysian history, with the polling date to be July, before the month of Ramandan begins.