Forecasting elections is part science and part art. The “science” of forecasting elections lies in knowing that there are reliable patterns of behavior on the part of both voters and parties or candidates. The “art” part of forecasting elections has to do with determining just what those “other factors” are and tweaking the statistical models to lead to the best prediction.
In an election with two major-party candidates like in the US is more predictable. The candidates will also behave predictably, taking stances and engaging in campaign activities designed to give them the most complete advantage. These activities often have the effect of canceling each other out. Thus, at the end of the election, even though the day-to-day battles of the campaign are important, other factors, some outside of their control, are likely to contribute to the election’s final outcome.
In Malaysia predicting the winner has been so easy for the past twelve general elections; the BN will always win. The only problem is forecasting the election date and this lead us to when the prime minister will announce that parliament is dissolved. The best way to make such prediction is to look at all the indicators; this is the art and it is subjective.
As the election is due, the state of the economy is usually the main indicator. Ideally the ruling Party must make everybody happy economically. There must be good jobs ready for employable citizens. The standard of living improved. Things are affordable and easy to make ends meet. Business is good and people have money in their pockets. In short there must be a real and substantial disposable income for everybody and there are real feel good feelings in the air. This is the suitable time for elections.
The next factor is the performance of the present government. How the people rate its performance is also critical because having elections during this favourable period will surely swing all he votes to the ruling party. There is no reason to vote otherwise.
In political science, inheriting bad economy is irrelevant and the ruling party who inherit whatever from the previous government need not worry about the state of the inheritance; it is the present performance that matters, unless it is made worse.
The performance of the opposition is also a strong factor to have the elections, or rather its poor performance. It is simply unwise to have elections when the opposition is strong and influential. The suitable time would be when the opposition is in the worse situation and when the people are angry with them.
So during good economy, with good ratings for the ruling party and the unfortunate opposition coupled with the overall peace and people live in harmony is the best condition to have elections when it is due.
The state of readiness is not a major factor since all parties involved are already on their toes and the campaign machineries are always in a “warming-up” condition, they just need to put the gear into contact position and it will move on. In fact election campaigns never stops.
But the oppositions have to be very careful not to spend all their resources before the election. Najib may delay the date since UMNO/BN have more money and resources compared to the opposition. The delaying tactics may exhaust out the resources of the opposition and UMNO/BN will make the kill.
Anyway when the situation is too bad, there is always another way out; cheating but this is another story.
Let us look at the situation from now until March 2013, the last month Najib will be in power; the GE-13 must be held from now until then.
At a glance everything under the sky at present is bad for Najib and UMNO. The economy is not doing as expected. The people are restive facing with the daily problems to ensure that whatever they have will be enough until their next salary without any mishap. For the working people, a traffic summon, a dead car battery and anything unexpected for their normal monthly budget is an economic burden. The majority of Malaysians do not have any real and substantial disposable income.
The performance of the UMNO/BN government and in particular Najib in one word is simply; Bad, with a capital “B” if not worse. There is no other way of describing it.
The opposition is getting stronger and their supporters are emboldened by the day. The morale of the opposition has also been supported by the international community, from Australia to the UK and even the UN has commented on the UMNO/BN government pertaining to the tear gas.
Despite the survey as reported by Sinar Harian showing 49% inclined towards BN, based on political science, none of the indicators is promising to determine the best date for the coming GE-13 and Najib knows that.
But politics is all about perceptions and surprises
What Najib and UMNO are doing now is to create an illusion in the country so that a time will come when all indicators are positive somewhere between now and March 2013. He needs the illusion to hang on for just two weeks, during the election fever. As for now the three plus one factors are not yet in line, all must occur at the same time to enable Najib to announce the date.
The RM100, RM200 and RM500 handouts are to create illusion of “the disposable income” and make people feel good. Unfortunately the desired effect was not there, whatever good it had, was not lasting enough and the timing was wrong. Now the people want more and Najib has indicated that the next time around he will handout RM1, 000. The Felda settlers have been lured by the RM15,000 promise.
The performance of UMNO/BN and Najib is a mess. Najib has tried several efforts to whitewash the bad deeds of UMNO/BN and also make up a good image of himself but all backfired. Whatever events at the national level or with international involvement that can boost the image of the UMNO/BN government simply turned out mediocre. What happened to the ETP, PTP and NKRA? What happened to the one and only international event that Najib has initiated, the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), as well as an accompanying GMM Foundation launched by Najib last January?
As an illusion, Mahathir managed to go full steam ahead during his time when he organized several national undertaking like the North –South Highway, KLIA, Petronas Twin Towers, Sepang F1 Circuit and Putrajaya and international events like CHOGM, Commonwealth Games, LIMA, LTDL, Langkawi Talk and made himself a nuisance for the west. Najib has nothing to show off except Rosmah being awarded the controversial and questionable PhD.
However as my girlfriend aptly said, “Even with all the best mayonnaise in the world, you cannot make chicken salad out of chicken shit”. That is what UMNO/BN is. So Najib seems to be giving up when the promised momentous 66th UMNO birthday celebrations has been so quiet. The success of the proposed gathering of one million youth from 23rd to 27th May 2012 will also be doubtful because the impact form the one held last year has been negligible politically. Najib cannot be seen to be hijacking this gathering to his advantage.
Others in UMNO who have not given up have tried to tarnish the image of the opposition as a party but have not succeeded in even trying to crack the coalition. Therefore they attack the opposition individually. They have failed against Anwar with Sodomy II. Now Nallakaruppan has been used to provide the purported “ice-cream” video on Anwar. Next they create trouble for Azmin Ali using his mother and sister, Umi Hafilda. Lim Guan Eng has been attacked on many occasions, Khalid Ibrahim has been accused of wrong doings. Karpal Singh has been portrayed as being against Islam and even Nik Aziz has been ridicule by UMNO several times. But thank God none of the accusations hold water.
On the other hand UMNO/BN leaders are mired with scandals and the people know that. It is only because the UMNO/BN leaders are so thick-skin, that they are still able to put on false pretenses when facing the public.
But the longer the delay in holding the GE-13, the much worse it will be for UMNO as the infightings for posts and winnable candidate will lead to backstabbing and sabotage. The recent report that the Chief Ministers will be replace with new faces is a big blow to the present ones and they will not give in easily.
11th hour surprises
The illusion and deception won’t work this time. But still the political science says that voters are swayed by the “present” situation; UMNO may have something under their sleeves that they will use within 12 hours before the polling day.
Mahathir aired the image of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah on national television network showing him with the Kadazan-Dusun doing a Sumazau dance wearing a headgear with a cross on it; Semangat 46 was practically rejected by the Malay voters on the polling day.
So let the dirt comes out now for the opposition and not be exposed prior to polling day.
With only 10 months remaining, the suitable date is almost not available; it is fully booked. There are so many state and national holidays, religious holidays and festivities all coming one after another. The people would rather enjoy the holidays and festivities rather than go out voting. This is bad for BN because their supporters have to be lured to vote, yet the supporters of the opposition are more committed and will participate in the election with zeal.
Najib is compiling all the feedbacks and as for now, it has not been encouraging. The only way for Najib to do, is by making a surprise announcement but he is hesitant like always even to announce the dissolve of parliament. He need not announce the actual GE-13 date; that will be done by the Election Commission. So he still have 50 days to play with, because the campaign period is 10 days and the GE-13 must be held within 60 days from the day parliament is dissolved. The big question is when will you dissolve parliament Najib?