Speculation on the election date has gone on for almost one year. The options for the election timing is getting shorter. It is expected that the GE will be held on April 14 or 21, 2013.
There are three possible outcomes for the coming election: Scenario 1 : The present status quo remains Scenario 2 : A reduced majority for BN Scenario 3 : BN regains two thirds majority There are 222 parliamentary seats in the country of which about 150 are Malay/Bumiputera seats, 30 mixed seats and 42 Chinese majority seats.
In the 2008 elections, BN won 140 seats and the Opposition won 82 seats. A further breakdown shows that UMNO won 79 seats, MCA 15 seats, MIC 3 and Gerakan 2, PKR won 31 seats, DAP 28 seats and PAS 23 seats.
From our analysis, it is becoming quite clear that the rural population has largely returned to BN, in particular rural Malays has largely shifted back to UMNO.
In this regard, UMNO is expected to win more seats than in 2008. It is likely that UMNO may win 85 to 90 parliamentary seats, up from their existing 79 seats. There is also a clear trend that Indian voters in rural and semi urban areas have also shifted back to BN. However, the urban voters are largely still with the Opposition.
Even though urban Malay voters may support Pakatan and even if more urban Malays were to support Pakatan in the urban seats, it will not increase seats for Pakatan as these urban seats are already held by DAP.
However, the urban voters are still very much with the Opposition in particular. The urban Chinese are very strongly supporting the DAP.
As high as 85 per cent of urban Chinese may vote for the DAP. This will increase the DAP’s numbers of seats won to 35-40 seats, up from the 28 seats DAP won in 2008, making DAP the biggest Opposition Party in Pakatan.
The Prime Minister’s hope is that his various outreach programmes to the Chinese community can win over some of the undecided Chinese voters but that is still a difficult challenge. Most of the Chinese seems to have made up their mind.
Some older Chinese and the Chinese business community may want to give Datuk Seri Najib a chance. They value peace, stability and prosperity and like Datuk Seri Najib s engaging style, like his presence at the Dong Zong Chinese New Year Open House.
In a recent roundtable and study on the main concerns of the Chinese community organised by ASLI’s Centre for Public Policy Studies, it was determined that the main issues of concern to the Chinese community are crime and corruption, education, cost of living, fairness and justice, cultural and religious issues, lack of civil service participation and lack of meritocracy.
These have caused frustrations among the Chinese voters.
However, if the Malay and Indian swing back to UMNO/BN is strong it will help MCA and Gerakan in swinging Malay and Indian votes to MCA and Gerakan candidates in the mixed seats where Malay voters account for higher than 40 per cent and Indian voters are between 10-15 per cent of the constituencies, such as Padang Serai and Gopeng.
Many of the undecided voters will want to see who are the candidates being put up by the parties and how the campaign unfolds. A gaffe or a mistake can be very costly during the campaign period.
The campaign can be a dirty campaign with a lot of personal attacks and accusations thrown by both sides. Surprises can be revealed during the campaign.
Datuk Seri Najib will campaign from a position of strength. His popularity and personality and his hard work and tenacity can win him a lot of support.
Obviously, he is more popular than his party.
Najib s proven track record in the transformation programmes and economic performance with the 6.4 per cent GDP growth in the 4th quarter of 2012 stands him and the BN government in good stead.
On the other hand, there is some urban dissatisfaction on the abuses of power, human rights violations, crime and corruption.
In Sarawak, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud will deliver 100 per cent of his PBB seats to the BN and hence secure the majority of Sarawak seats. However, the PRS and SPDP may lose a couple of Dayak seats to PKR.
The SUPP will come under a strong challenge from the DAP and could lose all its Chinese majority seats to DAP but win back Sibu with a new strong candidate and retain the Dayak majority seat of its Deputy President Datuk Richard Riot, hence winning two out of its six Parliamentary seats.
In Sabah, Sabah UMNO should be able to do well, leading the BN to regain control of the state government. DAP will win in several more Chinese majority seats.
In Peninsular Malaysia, the MCA seats that will hard fought are Gelang Patah, Kulai and Tajung Piai in Johor and Lumut in Perak. These seats can be vulnerable.
On the other hand, MCA has a good chance of winning back Padang Serai, Gopeng and Selayang should there be a strong Malay and Indian swing back to BN.
In the state contests, Pakatan should retain Kelantan and Penang but will face a strong challenge from BN.
In Penang, if the Malay swing is strong, UMNO may win 17 Malay seats and if MCA and Gerakan can win just four more seats, BN will narrowly regain Penang.
The fight for Selangor will be the toughest and it is 50:50 for either side.
BN should win Kedah and Perak where the Malay swing back to UMNO could help UMNO win back PKR and PAS state seats in Perak although the DAP will still likely hold on to all its Chinese majority seats in Perak.
In the final analysis, the BN will win the 13th General Election. The only uncertainty remains in the size of the majority.
From our analysis, BN is expected to win between 123 to 135 seats. This is the most likely outcome. However, if the Malay and Indian swing back to BN is very strong and Najib is able to bring back more undecided Chinese, BN can win up to 150 seats, which will restore the BN’s two thirds majority. This outcome will be a difficult challenge.
The third scenario is the BN retains about the same number of seats around 140, which it won in 2008.
Nevertheless what can be certain is that the two big winners in the coming elections will be UMNO and the DAP.
What is also important to consider is the shape of the Post GE13 Government.
Will there be a new political realignment? Will UMNO seeks a new alliance with PAS for Malay and Muslim unity and how will this impact on the non-Malays and non Muslims? Will the two big expected election winners UMNO and DAP seek a new political realignment? Nothing is impossible after the General Election.
After all there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics. These are the sort of post-election scenarios that need to be also considered.
* Tan Sri Michael Yeoh Oon Kheng is Chief Executive Officer, Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI) & Deputy Chairman Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS).