MALAYSIA: Malaysian election day

Umno-affiliated newspaper, 'Utusan Malaysia,' reports possible election dates that correlate with holidays

The Straits Times
Saturday, February 9, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR --- MARCH 8 or, at the latest, by March 15: That is the day Malaysians will go to the polls, says the country's leading Malay newspaper, which often reflects the thinking of Umno leaders.

Yesterday's Page 1 report by Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia has narrowed the window on the exact date of the general election, which has been a major guessing game in the country in the past few weeks.

There have been previous dates bandied about by politicians, including in April or June this year.

Utusan said yesterday that, based on the two dates, many people are speculating that Parliament will be dissolved in about two weeks.

The newspaper did not say who its sources were -- apart from quoting a menteri besar. But the report is being taken seriously because Utusan often mirrors the views of top Umno leaders.

The dates it gave also dovetail with the school holidays early next month.

All Malaysian schools will be closed from March 8 to March 16.

This is important because school and public halls are the main venues for the people to cast their ballots during elections and by-elections.

Although the government is only into the fourth year of its five-year term, politicians and analysts have said that Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is keen to call an early election because he fears the worsening global economic climate could hurt Malaysia's export-led economy.

Concern over possible political infighting in Umno and within other coalition members, such as the Malaysian Chinese Association, is another reason to go to the polls earlier, his aides say.

Utusan quoted Perak Menteri Besar Tajol Rosli Ghazali as saying on Thursday: 'I believe Parliament will be dissolved in a period of two weeks.'

The mass-selling Utusan also quoted Prime Minister Abdullah as saying that 'rumours will be rumours' when asked about the March dates.

He also said he will make a decision on the correct date when the time is 'right'.

Datuk Seri Abdullah raised expectations of imminent polls when he said last week that he had 'found the inspiration' for when to hold the general election, and it was only a matter of deciding the exact date.

In the previous 2004 election, Parliament was dissolved on March 4 that year.

Nomination day, when politicians who want to take part in the polls register their names, was held nine days later.

The polling date then was March 21.