Malaysian elections within 180 days, says DPM Zahid

DPM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said "those who say elections will take place later than that are out of touch with reality".
DPM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said "those who say elections will take place later than that are out of touch with reality".

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's general election will take place in the next 180 days, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday, and he indicated that it would be held next year.

"The elections will take place no later than 180 days from now," he said, meaning it would take place by mid-May.

"Those who say that the elections will take place later than that are out of touch with reality," he said at the opening of the annual conference of Parti Gerakan, a component party of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

The six-month period mentioned by Datuk Seri Zahid is not really a surprise as BN's five-year term will end on June 24, with Parliament automatically dissolved then.

This means Prime Minister Najib Razak, as head of the ruling coalition, must call for the polls before that date.

After Parliament is dissolved, it is the Election Commission - and not Datuk Seri Najib - that has the right to call for elections within 60 days of the dissolution.

Mr Zahid said: "We must make all the necessary efforts. I believe it will only be called next year and if we work hard, we can empower our election machinery to deliver big wins throughout the country."

His comments put paid to a lingering suspicion that Mr Najib might call for a rare monsoon election. This has happened only once before in 1999, when then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called for national polls on Nov 29.

To be sure, calling for elections during the monsoon period is risky, as several states are typically flooded during the rainy season, especially the east coast states.

Last week, Penang unexpectedly suffered its worst flooding. Three years ago in December 2014, Kelantan state suffered its worst flooding.

In 2007, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Kedah and northern Johor were heavily flooded.

The rainy season usually tapers off around the end of January.

Pundits say a popular election window next year is after mid-February and before the middle of May.

The reason? The Chinese New Year falls on Feb 16 and the Muslim fasting month begins on May 16.

Malaysia's biggest English language newspaper, The Star, on Saturday reported that the 14th general election is likely to be held between April and mid-May.

While there was speculation that Mr Najib would hold the polls around September or October this year, as he has managed to generally brush off the scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, party officials have said he is keen to first address voter complaints on cost-of-living issues and high home prices.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysian elections within 180 days, says DPM Zahid'. Print Edition | Subscribe