By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, June 14 — Surveys and analysis conducted internally by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) show it can win over 100 federal seats if polls are called soon but the federal opposition expects Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Budget 2013 proposals due September 28 to be a “game-changer” that could affect the opposition’s victory.
The Malaysian Insider understands that a compilation of projections by the opposition pact’s three components largely match the consensus of Barisan Nasional (BN) intelligence which sees the ruling coalition assured of 80 seats with up to a further 50 wins likely.
“The analyses from both sides match very closely. The only big difference is we are more optimistic in Johor, Sabah and Sarawak which can yield us another 20 seats,” a top PR strategist told The Malaysian Insider.
Although the BN surveys show it could place up to 146 lawmakers in Parliament, just two short of a two-thirds supermajority, sources say this prognosis came immediately after the RM500 cash handouts to low-income families under the Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BR1M) scheme.
A more recent survey by the Special Branch said the ruling pact could only win up to 118 federal seats, prompting BN strategists to seek a delay in the polls.
The prime minister’s approval ratings shot up to 69 per cent immediately after the RM2.6 billion in cash was disbursed but dipped last month after violent clashes between police and protestors at the April 28 Bersih rally for free and fair elections.
Najib is unlikely to hold the general election due by mid-2013 unless he is confident of improving on BN’s tally of 140 MPs from March 2008. He took over as PM a year later, ostensibly to improve on the coalition’s worst-ever electoral performance.
The BN chief recently said he will announce next year’s budget on September 28, expected to include a repeat of BR1M, which the Umno president has admitted is on the cards.
The Malaysian Insider also reported on Tuesday that BN MPs were handed RM1.5 million to plough into their constituencies in Monday’s pre-council meeting for the current parliamentary sitting.
It is also learnt that RM300,000 is to be made available this week for direct cash disbursements while the rest for projects will be available upon request.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had said earlier this year PR would only need 100 MPs which would see “Umno implode,” and other PR strategists have echoed this view when speaking to The Malaysian Insider.
PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution also told The Malaysian Insider that “the top leadership may not agree, but my personal view is that now is the best time for polls.”
“But I think Najib wants to announce an election budget first. That is his only game-changer now besides hoping for infighting in PR parties and the attacks on Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Azmin Ali,” he said, referring to his de facto leader and deputy president respectively.
The Malaysian Insider had reported on May 28 of a possible September general election but Najib’s announcement that Budget 2013 will be tabled on September 28 has pushed party strategists to look at a further date to also ensure budget goodies get to the ground.
The haj pilgrimage on October 26, Deepavali on November 13 and BN’s efforts to court the youth and Chinese vote could delay the general election to November, sources say, adding that the BN chief was still scrutinising the candidates’ lists to ensure a bigger victory.
BN sources say several recent surveys show the coalition needs to work harder to get a convincing victory especially with some 2.2 million voters casting ballots for the first time.
Najib took over from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in April 2009, ostensibly to improve on BN’s worst electoral performance ever in March 2008, where it lost its customary two-thirds supermajority in Parliament and four state governments.