Thursday, January 8, 2009

Pak Lah's litmus test - reflection of last general election

Today Online Spore - Media Corp Press March 8, 2008

Poor win for BN may mean trouble for Malaysian PM

AT 13 days, it was one of Malaysia's longest election campaigns in memory — characterised by the usual mudslinging, lawsuit threats, celebrity endorsements and active online campaigning.

And as Malaysians go to the polls on Saturday, the big question is not whether the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) will retain its two-third majority — most analysts believe that's a given — but how the expected increase in the number of seats lost to the opposition will affect the political future of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

A "poor win" by BN, some observers believe, may even result in Mr Abdullah making a graceful exit midway through his second term.

Ms Tricia Yeoh, of the Centre of Public Policy Studies in Kuala Lumpur, said: "Losing one or two additional seats doesn't change anything for BN. But if it hits 50 seats or more, it is a dangerous indicator of his weakening popularity."
"It might open up room for political infighting because members of the party are aware of the perceived weakened condition of Pak Lah. Certain quarters would be on the lookout to optimise on the situation," she told Weekend Today.

To achieve their target of breaking the BN's two-third majority, the opposition, which held 19 seats in the previous Parliament, must win at least 75 seats out of the 214 parliamentary seats up for grabs.

While the conventional wisdom is that the three main opposition parties — the Democratic Action Party (DAP), Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and Mr Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat — will not be able to win that many, some analysts believe it is not impossible for them to double their representation in Parliament.

A poll of 500 Malaysians in Peninsular Malaysia, conducted over the past 36 hours, showed that about 40 seats might fall to the opposition, said Mr Ibrahim Suffian of opinion research firm Merdeka Centre.
Mr Ibrahim added: "The greatest erosion of support for the BN comes from the Indians, then the Chinese and lastly, the Malays — the urban more than the rural".

The hot states in this general election — judging by the attention given to them by BN bigwigs — include Kelantan, under PAS' control since 1990; Penang, where Chinese support is reported to be swaying away from the ruling coalition; Terengganu, now in Umno's hands but where PAS remains influential; and Melaka, a former DAP stronghold.

The hot seats — as highlighted by the Malaysian media — include Petaling Jaya Utara in Selangor where DAP's Tony Pua is facing incumbent BN's Chew Mei Fun; Padang Serai in Kedah where Keadilan's N Gobalakrishnan is taking on BN's Boon Chai Gan; and Bachok in Kelantan, where PAS' Nasharuddin Mat Isa is challenging Awang Adek Hussin from BN.

Another fiercely-fought seat is Lembah Pantai in Kuala Lumpur where Cabinet minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil is taking on Ms Nurul Izzah of Keadilan, Mr Anwar's daughter, and independent N Periasamy.
With urban voting patterns hard to predict, many of the contests in these hot seats could go either way.

Some analysts are also focusing their attention on the Pekan seat in Pahang, where Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is defending his parliamentary seat.
Dr Ahmad Nidzamuddin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia thinks a strong showing by Mr Najib in Pekan may be another factor in determining whether Mr Abdullah will make his exit mid-way through his second term. He said: "If he (Mr Najib) gets a very strong majority, then the pressure (for Mr Abdullah to retire) is stronger."
Analysts had earlier told Weekend Today that Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin, Mr Abdullah's son-in-law, who is making his election debut in Rembau, Negri Sembilan; or Education Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, who is contesting Sembrong, Johor, may become the Deputy Prime Minister should Mr Najib take over.
Some analysts believe Mr Abdullah's decision to retire early, or otherwise, will not be just dependent on the election results.

Ms Yeoh, for example, forsees three scenarios which could lead to Malaysia having a new Prime Minister: If dissatisfaction over inflation and the economy continues; if he fails to live up to his promise of eradicating corruption; and if he fails to deal with the problems arising from marginalised ethnic and religious groups.

Comment: U need more than Mr Clean image to go further my friend... As Dr M once said image does not mean anything unless it is clearly seen to be clean.

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