Abdullah may bring forward general election
plans from next year to December this year because of the worsening economic
scenario with economists forecasting a global economic recession as a result
of the galloping SARS epidemic on top of the Iraq war
Tebal DAP Branch Dinner
by Lim Kit Siang
I have always believed that the next general
election would be held after the retirement of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir
Mohamad as the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia in October this year and
that it would be the new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
who will be leading the Barisan Nasional into the next general election
The reasoning is very simple political logic - Abdullah will otherwise lack
the authority and legitimacy as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Already people are asking as to how long Abdullah could last as Prime
Minister, whether he could assert leadership and authority, not only in the
country but also in UMNO.
If Mahathir wants Abdullah to fail or falter as the new Prime Minister, then
there could be no more powerful way than for him to dissolve Parliament and
hold a general election before handing over the premiership to Abdullah,
where every Barisan Nasional Minister, Member of Parliament and State
Assembly member would owe his or her election to Mahathir and not to
Abdullah - including Abdullah himself.
Abdullah would have to wait for another four to five years for the next
general election before he would have the opportunity to lead and win a
Barisan Nasional election victory to establish full authority and legitimacy
- and four to five years can be a very long time in politics and nobody can
be sure that Abdullah will still be around in the Malaysian political arena
in those circumstances!
Going on the premise that it would be Abdullah and not Mahathir who would be
dissolving Parliament and leading the Barisan Nasional in the next general
election, the conventional wisdom is that Abdullah would want some time
ranging from three to nine months to project a new image of the Abdullah
administration to garner public confidence and votes. This would mean that
the next general election is likely to fall anytime between February and
July next year.
However, recent national and global developments may have forced a re-think
of this time-table, and Abdullah may bring forward general election plans
from next year to December this year because of the worsening economic
scenario with economists forecasting a global economic recession and its
adverse fall-outs for the Malaysian economy as a result of the galloping
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic on top of the Iraq war.
The third postponement in the announcement of the estimated RM5 billion
first 2003 economic stimulus package tomorrow to an indefinite date probably
next month is one result of such worsening global economic scenario.
Until two days ago, the country was expecting the multi-billion ringgit
economic stimulus package to be unveiled tomorrow, as it had been completed
three months ago and had been held back from announcement originally
scheduled for February precisely because of the Iraq war. It was then
rescheduled for announcement for late March and then tomorrow.
The reason that has been given for the third postponement of the economic
stimulus package is not very convincing - that there has to be a relook at
the whole package again as the Finance Ministry had thought that the Iraq
war would be short and quick.
This is because any responsible contingency response and plan must factor
the three possibilities of the Iraq war - that it could be short, medium or
a long war.
The really new element is the economic devastation that could be caused by
the global SARS epidemic, which has spread to 20 countries, infecting more
people and causing more deaths - now exceeding 90 casualties.
Although the Malaysian Institute
of Economic Research (Mier) executive director Dr. Mohamed Ariff said four
days ago that the Iraq war may have a more damaging impact on the regional
economy than the SARS virus, there have been a growing chorus of warning
from economists that SARS could plunge the world into a global recession.
Stephen Roach, chief economist of
the leading international bank Morgan Stanley has predicted that SARS could
trigger a global downturn and tip the world economy into recession, and
lowered world growth forecasts because of the rapid spread of SARS.
He said: "SARS may well be the
tipping point for a global economy that has already been hit by the twin
shocks of war and geopolitical uncertainty. Unfortunately, the SARS effect
is concentrated in Asia - long the fastest growing economy in the world and
the one area that had basically been keeping the world economy afloat."
Morgan Stanley said it was
reducing its forecast for global gross domestic product (GDP) this year to
2.4 per cent, from 2.5 per cent previously. Because there is little chance
of every region of the world economy contracting simultaneously, analysts
typically regard any global growth figure of below 2.5 per cent as
In contrast, Bank Negara two weeks ago forecasts a modest global economic
growth of 3.1% for this year with Malaysia's economic growth this year at
4.5% (down from the original estimate of 6 - 6.5% in the 2003 Budget last
Has the post-Iraq war economic stimulus package been further delayed because
the government has belatedly discovered that Bank Negara was over-optimistic
in its revised forecasts and furthermore, had not factored into account the
adverse economic repercussions of SARS not only on the global but also on
the national economy, which have led some economist analysts to slash
Malaysia's growth projections this year to as low as 3 per cent?
Malaysians are entitled to know the reasons for the third postponement of
the multi-billion ringgit economic stimulus package in three months - which
does not speak well for a decisive and confident style of economic
The single biggest issue in the
next general election is whether Malaysia is to embark on the road to an
Islamic state, starting on the UMNO model and then heading towards the PAS
Recently, Acting Prime Minister,
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in Penang that Malaysia is an Islamic
state and was one long before the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir
Mohamad's "929 declaration" at the Gerakan national delegates conference on
Sept. 29, 2001 that Malaysia was an Islamic state.
DAP rejects the contention that (i)
Malaysia is an Islamjic state ; and (ii) that Malaysia was an Islamic state
long before the "929 Declaration" and we have the public declarations of
Bapa Malaysia and the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman and the third
Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn to back our positions.
It is most shocking and unbelievable that Abdullah's development of the
theme that Malaysia had all along been an Islamic state was made at a
Gerakan Penang State Government function "to explain the Islamic State",
when one week before the "929 Declaration" by Mahathir, Gerakan leaders
including its President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim
Keng Yaik and Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon were assuring
the Sarawak voters in the 2001 Sarawak state general election that Malaysia
was not and was never an Islamic state, while falsely accusing DAP leaders
of "aiding and abetting" PAS to set up an Islamic state.
Penang should be the frontline state in Malaysia in the next general
election to defend the fundamental principle in the 1957 Merdeka
Constitution, the "social contract" and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement that
Malaysia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as
the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic state, whether ala-PAS
Yesterday, Parti Keadilan Nasional proposed co-operation with DAP in Penang
in the next general election. DAP welcomes the proposal of co-operation and
invites Parti Keadilan Nasional to join forces with DAP to make Penang the
front-line state in the country to translate into practice the most
important legacy of Tunku Abdul Rahman when he made the stirring call on his
80th birthday on February 8, 1983: "Don't turn Malaysia into an Islamic
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National