PM should not play hide & seek over GE date

April 7, 2012

Why is so difficut for Najib to mature up and foretell a date for the election? What are those "secrets" that he must hide from the rakyat, especially after his "people first" pledge?

Malaysia, supposedly a developed nation seems to be the only country which treats its general election like a circus, undermining its role, harping only on the need to win, one way or another.

What is worse, Najib Tun Razak who as both the ruling government Barisan Nasional chief and the country’s sixth prime minister in facing his toughest general election (GE) to-date, has given the most ridiculous of excuse as to why he cannot disclose the date for the coming 13th GE.

At the launch of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia on March 19, the premier remarked that the question on the election date was akin to asking the Coca-Cola chief executive officer to divulge the secret ingredients that made the drink world-famous.

“I’m sure you can appreciate why I can’t reveal it…even if I know, I got to keep the trade secret to myself,” was Najib’s unbelieveable justification.

And he hopes the media will appreciate his answer for there a few secrets he has to keep to himself.

A few? Najib’s modesty begs objection.

In trying so hard to make an impression both with the media, be it local or foreign and the rakyat, the premier has unwittingly done the opposite – his wisecrack synonym between Coca-Cola and the election date made no sense.

For one, soft drinks never do one’s health any good and Coca-Cola is no exception. Also,a latest report stated that in the United States last year, soft drink sales fell for the seventh consecutive year as consumers increasingly switched to energy drinks, water and teas.

Clearly, the premier’s lack of sobriety in handling queries concerning the date of the coming general election is alarming.

Why is so difficult for Najib to mature up and foretell a date for the election? What are those “secrets” that he must hide from the rakyat, especially after his “people first” pledge?

BN playing dirty, as always

As Aliran’s past president P.Ramakrishnan has pointed out, there should be a definite pre-determined date that is publicly disclosed to enable everyone to know the date of the next general election.

He said such practise is found in countries which have a fixed date for the election. Among them are Norway and Switzerland with fixed dates and Canada and its provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Northwest Territories).

In the United Kingdom the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 fixes the general election on the first Thursday in May every five years. Elections to the European Parliament occur every five years in June.

Presidential elections in the United States occur every four years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November. Germany, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have semi-fixed terms in that dissolution at any time in mid-term is allowed only to resolve serious deadlock.

How is it that the leaders of these countries chose not to keep any “secrets” and have the foresight and decency to detail the dates of their respective countries’ elections?

Back home, what “secrets” are those that Najib is struggling to safeguard, to the extent that he is willing to play dirty in monopolising the election date?

‘Bribing’ the rakyat is not the way, BN

Ramakrishnan also said, “predetermined or fixed election dates have the advantage of fairness and predictability”, a move which BN refuses to subscribe to; the antithesis of which was last year’s July 9 “Walk for Democracy” rally which pressed the BN government to engage in clean and fair elections.

“Though the Barisan Nasional may not be in favour of this (as under the present practice, it can surprise the opposition by calling for a snap election when the circumstances are favourable to it, the BN must be realistic and see the advantage in this when it becomes the opposition after the 13th GE.”, Ramakrishnan remarked.

Another point raised by him is that BN has wasted too much time and money in trying to create a favourable situation prior to the election.

“The recent budget is a good example of how voters are being bribed for the BN’s benefit. Households earning less than RM3,000 were in no better position in 2009, 2010 and 2011 but this is being attended to only in 2012 just before the 13th GE.

“The RM500 may assist them in January but does their hardship disappear after that? What about the next 11 months? If this was a long-term solution for the whole of this year and the years after that, then there is no ground to accuse the BN of bribing the voters!” Ramakrishnan lamented.

That said, Najib would be wrong to assume there are “secrets” he can hold close to his chest.

The rakyat is all-knowing and is watching every move the premier makes. Turning the general election into a circus only affirms the people’s suspicion that BN is no longer secure nor confident of facing the nation’s 13th GE, dubbed the “mother” of all elections.

In any case, the rakyat which is all “eyes” and “ears” awaits the “circus”.

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