A test of will between Najib and Taib - who will last longer politically?

This is what I have just tweeted: "Bau became famous when Pandelela Rinong, a Bidayuh from Bau, won London Olympics bronze medal for diving. Next let Bau make history in 13th General Election for Pakatan Rakyat".

Throughout the country, including Bau, Malaysians have been waiting impatiently for the 13th General Election for close to two years, with many expecting it to fall on 11.11.2011 or "11.11.11" in view of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's special preference for "11".

However, one man is not ready - with one scandal after another, like the RM250 million "Cow Condo" scandal, or one P.R. (public relations) disaster after another like the Bersih 2.0 of July 9, 2011, Bersih 3.0 of April 28, 2012 and most lately the defection of two Barisan Nasional MPs in Sabah at the end of July which repeatedly caused Najib to vacillate and keep pushing off the GE date.

All this because of Najib's pathological fear and total lack of confidence in his own ability to lead UMNO/BN to victory in Putrajaya in the 13th GE.

Now, all speculation of 13GE date is again focused on Najib's favourite number of "11" - November this year, ranging from Nov 3 to Nov. 29. There seems to be greater credibility this time, as the de facto Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir has given his blessings for November general election although he had earlier warned of dire consequences to UMNO if the13th General Election was called before UMNO was ready.

But whether the 13th GE is called in November or not, time is running out for Najib. Under the Constitution, the present Parliament will stand automatically dissolved on April 27, 2013, or in less than eight months' time - i.e. five years from the first sitting of the present Parliament on April 28, 2008 - with new elections held within 60 days.

One noteworthy consequence from Najib's continuous vacillation and postponement of the general election is his impotence and inability to enforce the timetable for the stepping down of Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud.

Najib had invested a lot of energy and political capital to get Taib to agree to a timetable to pass the baton of Sarawak Chief Minister before the Sarawak state general election on April 16, 2011.

On 19 th March 2011, for instance, Najib made the announcement in Serian that Taib would step down as Chief Minister when the time was right, that he and Taib had reached an understanding on when the transition of power would take place.

Najib said: "Leave the succession plan to me and the Chief Minister. We know when time is right to make the change in Sarawak. We know and I can assure you that the Chef Minister is ready.

"When the time comes, he is ready to leave the stage and we have a very good understanding when that is going to happen."

Three weeks later, Najib was more specific, promising Sarawak voters at a Barisan Nasional election function in Kuching that Taib would step down as promised, declaring: "I have discussed with the Sarawak CM and he has agreed to have a leadership change in Sarawak. Believe me, in me, at the right timing, this will be done."

When pressed at the time, Taib equivocated although he finally mentioned "two years" as the timeframe of his stepping down as Sarawak Chief Minister after the Sarawak state general election on April 16, 2011.

Taib's two-year timeframe to step down as Sarawak Chief Minister will be up in seven months' time but there are absolutely no signs that he is prepared and ready to honour his understanding and undertaking with Najib to effect a transition of power in Sarawak.

In fact, all the signs point to the opposite, as Taib seems to be ensconced to complete his full term as Chief Minister. This explains his speech earlier today that there is no need to speed up leadership change as the people of Sarawak were able to "enjoy peace, political stability and organised development".

It would appear that Taib's speech today is specially meant for Najib's ears, with the unmistakable message that he is not going to honour his understanding with the Prime Minister on stepping down as Chief Minister.

A test of will between Taib and Najib is currently underway, with Taib thumbing his nose at the Prime Minister, defying Najib to see who could last longer politically. Taib is confident that Najib is too weak politically to try to enforce their understanding before the 416 Sarawak state general election to be Sarawak Chief Minister for only two years.

Najib will be leading the entire Federal Cabinet to Bintulu for the Malaysia Day celebrations on Sept 16. This will also be the most appropriate occasion to clarify whether his understanding with Taib on the latter's stepping down as Sarawak Chief Minister two years after the Sarawak state general elections still stands, so whether it has "Gone with the Wind"!

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timur