By LIM SUE GOAN
Sin Chew Daily
Petrol prices have gone up by 20 cents again while government hospitals have increased their charges. This means the general election is unlikely to be held in April, because the ruling coalition does not have sufficient time to create the "feel good" atmosphere within such a short period of time.
Besides, the Umno divisional and branch meetings will be held earlier than scheduled, and the government will need time to manage the Felda issue.
As such, if GE14 is to be held this year, it will very likely be in September, after the country celebrates its 60th anniversary of independence.
Another reason the GE will not be held in April is that Umno is still trying to consolidate its Malay vote bank as the party faces intimidation from both PAS and Bersatu.
After the thumping victory in the twin by-elections in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar last year, Umno seems to have found the formula of retaining its grip on the federal administration, i.e. by creating three-cornered fights with a little help from PAS that will give Umno more seats than what it won in 2013.
Not surprisingly PM Najib announced in the Umno general assembly last December that the federal government was prepared to take over PAS president Hadi Awang's private bill RUU355 in a bid to secure the goodwill of PAS.
All things looked set until January 27 when Najib said after officiating the Umno Supreme Council meeting that the cooperation with PAS was only confined to Muslim and Islamic issues, and had not involved politics.
Najib also fell short of announcing whether Umno would take part in PAS' rally in support of RUU355 on Feb 18. Such an ambiguous stand has frustrated the Islamist party.
On Feb 1, PAS had a closed door meeting with Bersatu leaders over the cooperation between the two parties. PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim and his Bersatu counterpart Mukhriz Mahathir issued a joint statement after the meeting that the two parties had agreed to set up a joint technical committee to follow up on their political cooperation.
Apparently PAS is adopting a "please all" strategy. By working with Bersatu, it aims to warn Umno that if you are not serious about helping us amend RUU355, we'll go with your rivals!
While PAS has reached some consensus with Bersatu over the political cooperation to bog down BN, its leader Hadi Awang claimed they only met on Bersatu's invitation and no agreement on fighting BN together had been achieved.
Meanwhile, Hadi was absent from the ceremony to send off the humanitarian ship for the Rohingyas on Feb 3, saying he was in hospital for medical examination. Hadi's refusal to join Najib in the event might be meant to deliver a certain message, even though Najib was still heard chanting "Muslim solidarity" in his speech.
As a matter of fact, there is disagreement within PAS whether to work with Umno and help it retain the federal administration. While there are chances Umno will help PAS push through its hudud agenda, some in the party worry PAS could be washed out altogether in the election.
Analysis shows that the support of Umno in rural areas has declined to 40%, more than 30% for PAS and about 20% for Bersatu. A three-cornered fight will only benefit Umno at the expense of PAS. As such, there are some within PAS who feel that the party should instead take advantage of a weakened Umno to set its sights on Putrajaya. If PAS cannot even keep Kelantan, it will be powerless to implement hudud in the state even if RUU355 amendment gets the go.
In PAS, Hadi is seen as more pro-Najib while his deputy Tuan Ibrahim is on the other side. Will Umno give up Kelantan and Terengganu in exchange for PAS' consent to create three-cornered fights in the coming general election? And will all quarters within PAS come together and agree on such a tie-up with Umno? These are the two questions that will determine whether the two parties will eventually work together.
Both PKR and Bersatu will never risk giving up PAS. Although Bersatu can make steady inroads into the rural areas and Felda settlements alone, it still needs a hand from PAS.
In the meantime, DAP is making adjustments to its attitude on Islamic issues in order to make significant breakthroughs among the Malay voters.
To the opposition, the upcoming general election will see a "Malay tsunami". But, will the hushed reactions among the majority Malays now signal a calm before the storm?