Polls keep receding into the future, with analysts talking about hung parliament, reports Asia Sentinel

There is growing speculation in Kuala Lumpur that the country might have to deal with a so-called hung parliament, in which no major party has an absolute majority of seats, following national elections expected to be called before the end of the year.

Najib Razak

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak. Pic: AP.

That would be a drastic comedown from the decades prior to 2008, when the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition broke the Barisan Nasional’s two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time since the country’s independence in 1963, and it would open the parliament to chaos. Intensive horse-trading would take place, in which both sides would resort to pouring money to secure the loyalty of the minority parties and lure members away from the other party, reminiscent of what followed the 2008 opposition victory in Perak state, after which Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak induced three opposition lawmakers to change sides and took the state away from the opposition.

Currently the Barisan controls 137 seats, the Pakatan Rakyat 75, and two minor parties, Parti Sosialis Malaysia and the Sabah Progressive Party holding two. There are seven independent members.

When the election will be held remains open to question, with the date continuing to recede since speculation started last year. The polls had been rumored for June, then July. That seems unlikely as Parliament remains in session until the end of this month, although it could be adjourned if the Prime Minister decides to do so.

But Puasa, the Malaysian version of Ramadan, begins July 20 and runs through Aug. 19 and is followed by the hajj, when devout Muslims visit Mecca, and other religious events. Some analysts believe the polls could be in September, although the budget is to be presented to the parliament on Sept. 28 and it is widely believed Najib will hold up the dissolution of parliament until after he announces a budget that would deliver benefits to the electorate. In the 2012 budget, Najib poured out a cornucopia of goodies, including salary increases for the country’s 1.3 million civil servants – mostly ethnic Malays, UMNO”s core constituency as well as a RM500 (US$162) one-off cash benefit for households earning less than RM3000 (US$974) per month – also aimed at poor, rural Malays and Indians, totalling RM1.8 billion (US$583 million).

Nonetheless, “The feedback they get is bad,” said a source with ties to the government in Kuala Lumpur. “Special Branch, Umno, the Information Ministry, military intelligence – all show slim majorities. So they are worried.”

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