SPECULATIONS of a snap 14th general election (GE14) have been swirling since early last year.
The probable polling date given by pundits is between March and November despite the deadline being in late August next year.
Aside from political considerations for such an early general election, there were also worries particularly among supporters of the establishment that the country’s economy may not improve anytime soon, thus a declining chance of the feel good factors for a later election.
A Chinese newspaper last week even speculated that the general election will be held in April due to a sudden improvement of performance at Bursa Malaysia.
Sources within DAP were also saying that the party was projecting the general election to be held as early as April.
The realities on the ground however indicate otherwise.
It is almost certain now that the general election will not be called in the first half of this year.
The main reason being that the groundwork in preparing the Barisan Nasional’s election machinery is far from over.
The ruling coalition could not possibly want to go to the polls in a less than complete state of preparedness.
Then, there was the passing of Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem yesterday which would put BN there in a state of flux for at least a few months to come as it settles the issue of leadership change.
As for BN’s basic groundwork for the polls, it is likely to be completed the earliest in the third quarter of the year.
At least that is the case with Johor BN which is reputedly the best in the coalition in terms of electoral preparedness over the past four general elections.
BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak while on a trip to Johor just before announcing the date of the last general election in 2013 noted that the State BN’s preparations for the polls as being the best compared to others.
As it had always been, the most visible sign that Johor BN is rounding up its groundwork for a final push towards the polls would be when its leadership goes for a tour of the electoral areas to personally observe the situation on the ground, trouble shooting local issues and boosting the morale of party machinery.
For the last general election, former State BN chairman Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Othman went on a gruelling tour of almost all of the about 1,000 polling areas in the state.
It is more or less the same this time, with current Johor BN chairman Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin starting his tour of the state’s 26 parliamentary constituencies earlier this month.
His visiting schedule given so far was however only for the first 12 visits which ends in Sekijang on March 30.
Based on that, it could safely be concluded that Khaled may only complete his tour of all the 26 parliamentary constituencies in the state by June or July.
Even that would depend on whether the tour could be smoothly completed without any delay due to unforeseeable circumstances.
Then, there would be the assessment and remedial processes based on the findings of the tour to fine tune the election machinery for the polls which could easily take another month or two.
Furthermore, Johor is going to be once again a frontline state in the coming general election, a factor that should likely persuade BN to afford itself with the necessary time needed to be very thorough in its preparations there.
A look at the voting pattern in the state in the last general election should persuade BN to do that.
Out of the over 1.3 million who voted in the state in 2013, more than 737,000 or about 54 per cent went with BN, while the opposition parties won over 625,000 votes or about 46 per cent.
It was not exactly a very comfortable margin for BN considering that Johor had all this while been considered the ruling coalition’s safe deposit.
The disproportionate number of electoral seats won by BN – 21 out of 26 in parliament and 38 out of 56 in state assembly, should not be very comforting considering that the opposition had increased its own from just one parliament seat in the 2008 general election to now six and from six in the state assembly previously to now 19 (in addition to the recent defection of former Umno parliamentarian for Pagoh and assemblyman for Jorak to join Pribumi Bersatu).
It is also for the first time now that BN does not have a two third majority in the Johor assembly.
Considering all those factors, it would be highly unlikely that BN is willing to cut corners in Johor to enable too early a snap poll.
If the normally very efficient Johor BN is going to take that much longer to be ready for the polls, its counterparts in other states would likely need even more time to do so.