A close look at the months ahead

January and February are viewed as being too early after Prime Minister Najib Razak's Dec 1 speech saying the general election will be held "soon".
January and February are viewed as being too early after Prime Minister Najib Razak's Dec 1 speech saying the general election will be held "soon".PHOTO: EPA

Why some months next year are no-go periods for the hustings, in the view of analysts and politicians:

JANUARY AND FEBRUARY

Viewed as being too early after Prime Minister Najib Razak's Dec 1 speech saying the general election will be held "soon".

There is also the Chinese New Year holiday on Jan 28 and 29, when Malaysians of all races and creeds return to their home towns.

MARCH

Parliament convenes again this month, with the government expected to push through proposals to redelineate constituencies. The opposition sees this as gerrymandering some of the 222 federal Parliament and 587 State Assembly seats, to benefit the Umno-led Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.

Political buddies Umno and opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) could table a controversial Bill that critics say will result in the backdoor entry of harsh Islamic laws into Malaysia. The so-called hudud Bill is meant to cement Umno's friendship with PAS.

APRIL AND MAY

Possible windows for the nationwide polls.

Malaysia's election campaign periods in the last five general elections were between eight and 15 days.

The Muslim fasting month begins on May 27. So polls must be called by early May to avoid the first day of Ramadan, when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking between dawn and dusk.

JUNE

The fasting month dominates the early weeks of June, with Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays on June 25 and 26.

Most Malaysians again use the holidays to "balik kampung" - return to their home towns.

Both former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Najib have called for by-elections during the fasting month before, but never a full-blown general election.

JULY

Malaysian Muslims often celebrate Hari Raya for one month.

So Mr Najib, if he does not want to upset his vote bank, can call for the polls only well after the second week of July. A small slot is available here and going into early August.

AUGUST

There is a small window for the general election, before the 29th SEA Games hosted by Kuala Lumpur between Aug 19 and 31.

Malaysia celebrates its 60th Merdeka (Independence Day) on Aug 31.

By the third week of August, Mr Najib will likely refrain from going to the polls, as some 23,000 Muslim pilgrims will begin flying to Mecca to perform the haj.

While these form a small number, politicians are wary of being accused of disrespecting pilgrims who want to focus on the haj, not worry about politics at home.

SEPTEMBER

Hari Raya Haji falls on Sept 1, the apex of the haj season. But Malaysian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia will return home only a month later.

OCTOBER

A big open window to call for elections. Many politicians and analysts say this is the best slot for 2017.

The Budget for the following year is traditionally presented in the third week of October, offering another chance to announce election goodies.

NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER

Risky months to call for polls because of the monsoon season. Heavy rain typically inundates many districts in the east coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.

Then again, unconventional Tun Dr Mahathir surprised many people in 1999 when he called for voting on Nov 29, after a nine-day campaign period.

Reme Ahmad

Lim Ai Leen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 18, 2016, with the headline 'A close look at the months ahead'. Print Edition | Subscribe