Despite a slew of negative pointers, Prime Minister Najib Razak is set to call for snap general elections in September. According to Umno watchers, Najib has not been able to convince his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin nor former premier Mahathir Mohamad that another delay was justified.
"No matter how the provocation, GE-13 is set for after Raya as the mood is right then," an Umno watcher told Malaysia Chronicle.
A host of Umno pundits including its newspapers and media have in the past week predicted that the 13th general election would be deferred to November at the earliest - after the October pilgrimage season and with enough time elapsed for the 'goodies' Najib is widely expected to announce in Budget 2013 slated for September 28.
Among reasons given were the recent shock defections by two Sabah BN MPs and this morning's sudden arrest of PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli for blowing the whistle on Umno leaders in the RM250mil NFC corruption debacle.
Warlords will wait no longer
But it looks like the demand fror speedy polls within Umno outweighed other considerations.
Division heads and chieftains - often referred to as warlords - are running short of funds to run party operations and need fresh injections that Najib has set aside for GE-13.
Hence, the clamoring for polls - the earliest date of which can only be in September after Najib wasted more opportune moments to dissolve Parliament in November 2011, March/April 2012 and June/July 2012.
When the 58-year-old Najib took over from his predecessor Abdullah Badawi in April 2009, he had four years left of the five-year mandate given by voters in the 2008 general election. Although Najib blew in on promises for reform and a 'corruption-free' government, he has failed to meet his set targets.
Instead things have worsened, including the economy, widening racial polarisation, rising crime, corruption and a visible return to an authoritarian government.
For example, his order to arrest Rafizi has hurt him more than the opposition leader, who has now gained 'hero' status for his courage in laying bare the misdeeds of the Umno leaders. The arrest also deepens public perception that Umno is corrupt beyond redemption and its leaders had all joined hands with Najib to stop Rafizi from exposing their secret deals.
The Sabah factor
Najib's popularity too has dipped again despite strong efforts to bolster his popularity with a host of nationwde 'get-to-meet-the-people' programs. In June it fell to 64% from 65% in May and 69% in April. The BN fared even worse, plummeting to a historic low of 42%, with Malay voters chalking the greatest erosion in support.
Last weekend, Najib took another direct hit when two senior BN MPs resigned to become Independent lawmakers aligned to the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Lajim Ukin and Wilfrid Bumburing, BN stalwarts in Sabah state, are expected to be joined by other senior colleagues by as early as next week.
"There's nothing that Najib can do anymore. It is too late, the people don't believe in what he says. Whatever threats that Najib and BN make in the coming elections won't deter the plan by other Sabah leaders to leave BN. Otherwise, their constituents will vote them out," Chua Jui Meng, the PKR vice president, told Malaysia Chronicle.
Stressed out over 'ultimate disaster'
Pundits point to the embattled Najib's quavering voice at the recent launch of his 1M4U, or 1Malaysia for You, program targeting young voters. The event had taken place as Anwar announced new political pacts in Sabah that are bound to destroy the BN's political stranglehold there.
"He must have sensed the ultimate disaster for BN," said Jui Meng.