JUNE 14 — The spirit of the constitution in having a general election (GE) once in every five years is obviously to prevent a waste of resources because it is not cheap to hold a GE.
The cost of holding GE14 was RM500 million, and it could cost RM1.2 billion or more to hold a snap election today, taking into account the Covid virus has not been completely wiped out, and an unprecedented global inflation is taking place.
Thus, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is spot on when in an interview with a Japanese daily he said this is not the right time to hold an election, as the interest and welfare of the people are paramount and need to be taken care of by mitigating the impact of high inflation through measures to stem the higher cost of food and energy.
And the RM2 billion that is going to be used for holding a snap election now is not peanuts. The monies will be better spent on both remedial and proactive measures to assist the rakyat in facing the high cost of living brought about by the spiralling inflation.
It is quite amazing the court cluster has criticised the PM for focussing on the impact of high inflation to help the rakyat instead of holding a snap election by dismissing inflation as a three-year cycle.
Even if true, this won’t be the normal high inflation of the same old, same old that we are used to.
The current rise in inflation is the result of the confluence of three separate factors — the pandemic with its excess pent-up of aggregate demand with the opening of the economy that supply won’t be able to meet due to supply chain disruptions, climate change and the war in Ukraine.
Hence, the intensity of the suffering of the people would be unprecedented for the next three years. So much for the court cluster’s “populist” idea of helping the rakyat by letting people withdraw their EPF savings until most workers especially the Bumiputras go broke on their EPF savings.
Now their agenda to help the rakyat is replaced with spending RM2 billon to organise a snap election.
Hence, Padang Rengas MP, Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz is also spot-on in describing those calling for a snap election very “selfish and irresponsible”.
At present, Malaysia and many Southeast Asian countries are fortunate the inflation rate, although bad is not bad enough like the inflation in the Eurozone countries where it is in the region of more than 7 per cent, brought about by energy prices soaring to more than 30 per cent and food prices up to 7.5 per cent, the cost of industrial goods by 4.2 per cent, and services by 3.5 per cent in May alone.
But this does not mean Malaysia will be immune to the runaway inflation like the one experienced by the Eurozone countries now. We will definitely be “infected” with this spiralling inflation the longer the pandemic and the Ukraine war last, and the more supply chain and climate change issues are not handled judiciously.
The difference between having a GE now and having it when it is due is just this: having it now gives Umno/Barisan Nasional (BN) a best chance of winning BIG. Still, it’s just a chance not a certainty! More important is what’s in it for the rakyat if Umno wins BIG? Directly — NOTHING!
Going by what had happened in the past especially during the 1987 Umno election where Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad won with a slim margin over Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the following pattern will be repeated:
- The direct beneficiary will be primarily the warlords of the court cluster and their rank and file.
- Fence-sitting Umno members coming out in droves to declare support for leaders of the court cluster, the majority opportunists expecting some kind of rewards.
- Court cluster’s leadership embrace them because they want traction in the number of members supporting them to show they have the support of the Umno grassroots.
- If the anti-hopping bill does not become law, and most likely it won’t because parliament was dissolved for snap election, the phenomenon of leap frogging will intensify with the latest destination — Umno and BN.
- While the court cluster leadership will harp on unity and blame the opposition — now PH and PN — and the media for creating imaginary factions in Umno, at the same time witch hunting against the core members of the minister cluster and their supporters would intensify behind the scene.
We can clearly see above, there is nothing in it for the rakyat.
Even indirectly, with Umno winning BIG, there is nothing in it for the rakyat. They will still continue to suffer from the unprecedented high cost of living of the global inflation due to the triple whammy of pandemic, climate change and the Ukraine war.
This triple whammy will not disappear just because Umno/BN wins the election. Even the court cluster has admitted that this high rate of inflation is a three-year cycle.
In fact, inflation will get worse under a new Umno government after a snap election because the political leadership of the country — both in the government and the opposition — will be distracted from moving head on to protect the rakyat.
This is because precious times will be wasted as the focus of politicians of all stripes is to ensure their party win the election — from the few weeks before Nomination Day right up to more than a week of campaigning.
And time will be wasted again after the election because the winning PM cannot immediately do things with optimum efficiency, as he doesn’t have a Cabinet and needs about a week to form one.
Even after the Cabinet is formed, ministers especially new ones need time to familiarise with their jobs and their ministries, and click their thinking with their PM.
All in all, about two or three months will be wasted with nothing substantive done when the country is facing a major crisis. If a new crisis emerges, the response will be a knee-jerk reaction.
So why does the court cluster want a snap election? Simple. They know the going will be tough for Umno to capture power if election is delayed because things will definitely get worse since the triple whammy that has engulfed the world has just started to look very real by May.
What better way to escape the brunt of complaints from the rakyat that will be accompanied by their punishment in a GE than having an election now when things haven’t gotten worse yet.
Then assuming Umno wins BIG, whenever things get worse they know they can turn a deaf ear to the complaining rakyat including the complaining opposition because they have a five-year mandate.
By the time the three-year cycle of inflation is over, things will get better and the rakyat being a complaining lot would suddenly become mellow as in Malaysians “mudah lupa” (easily forget) and all will be forgiven when election is due within two years. Umno by now dominated by the court cluster will be voted in again.
If election is held when it is due next year, precious time will not be wasted which will enable PM Ismail and the cabinet together with Umno, other coalition partners and the opposition to put their singular focus on protecting the rakyat against the unprecedented hardship of the global inflation by introducing new and creative initiatives to stem the high rate of inflation.
With more time too, this newfound unity and solidarity would be crucial in enabling the mobilisation of every stakeholder of the country to practise and internalise the concept of equality of sacrifice, where every stakeholder of the country are in it together for survival.
The result — riding out together the challenge of an unprecedented high inflation so that a year later on the eve of a GE, the inflation rate in Malaysia remains slightly higher than it is now, when it is galloping at a frightening rate in most parts of the world.
Despite this wonderful result, if Umno still loses the election, know that it is always better to lose with honour than winning with chicanery.
* Jamari Mohtar is the Editor of Let’s Talk!, an e-newsletter on current affairs.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.