On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

All signs point to November polls

Last week, the Cabinet directed  all ministers and senior civil servants to
cancel their leave plans; a strong sign
that the general election is imminent.

Speculation is rife that Parliament will be dissolved this month and polling will be held by the second week
of November.

The 25th Barisan anniversary 
celebration, scheduled for Oct 24, 
has received the go-ahead from 
the Prime Minister.

The biggest boost for the Government must be the negative results of the
findings on the alleged  arsenic
poisoning of Datuk Seri  Anwar

The first report came from Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. When the
results were unfavourable to Anwar, his supporters responded by insinuating
that  the hospital was under
political  pressure.

The bottom line, they implied,  was a
cover-up. They wanted an  investigation
by a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

But it would be difficult for the 
Opposition to dispute the findings 
of the London and New York hospitals which also concluded that Anwar did
not suffer from arsenic  poisoning.

Four different laboratories in  Malaysia,
Australia and Britain  found arsenic
present in samples  of Anwar's hair,
urine and nails but  they were all within
acceptable  levels.

The Mayo Clinic of New York  was of the
opinion that the presence of arsenic was "due to the  consumption of a non-toxic form of  arsenic, probably from sea food.''

The findings also showed that  Anwar was
free from HIV, refuting an earlier allegation that Anwar was injected with the
AIDS virus.

The Opposition has made a tactical error and would need some  time to pump up sagging morale  among its ranks.

For Barisan, the clear evidence  of the
country's economy recovery   achieved
without submitting to  the International
Monetary Fund,  unlike Indonesia and
Thailand  is  another morale-booster.

Despite being criticised for its  capital
controls move, Malaysia  managed to pull
through without  massive retrenchment and
a sharp  rise in prices of essential

Some of us may recall that a  year ago,
the pro-opposition foreign media forecast a scenario of  Malaysian banks collapsing.

The reports called for reforms,  saying
the Government had not  been tough enough
on the banking  system. But when Bank
Negara  moved to merge some banks in
order to strengthen the system, the  same
media looked for faults.

Another plus point was Dr Mahathir's willingness accommodate  an appeal by Chinese groups.

What was earlier seen as a potentially sour point among the Chinese community
turned out well,  with MCA president
Datuk Seri Dr  Ling Liong Sik getting the
various  Chinese groups to sit down to
resolve the controversy.

Dr Ling pointed out that it was  an
appeal, not a demand.

There was also no demand for a  deputy
prime minister's post, as  presumed by
some. Dr Ling said  that representatives
of Chinese  groups would be named into
the  National Economic Consultative  Committee II.

It is important to note that Datuk  Chong
Chin Shoong, regarded as a  moderate,
retained the presidency  of the powerful
Federation of Chinese Associations of Malaysia.

With economic recovery, a bullish stock market will help quell  anti-establishment sentiments especially
among the urban middle  class.

Investors and retailers understand that if Barisan is not returned with a
strong mandate, the  effects would be
disastrous to the  market.

And the trickle-down effect of  the
economic recovery will be felt  even more
when the Government  announces its
year-end bonus for  civil servants.

Bearing in mind all these factors, the time is ripe for Barisan to  call for elections. After months of  defence, Barisan is on the offensive

Dr Mahathir should take advantage of these developments. Fresh  issues would only put Barisan on  the defensive.

Most Malaysians would have  made up their
minds by now.  Those who want stability
would  vote Barisan while those who want  a change in the system would vote  the Opposition.

Anwar supporters have accused  the
Government of poisoning him  while
Barisan has accused the Opposition of poisoning the people's  mind. It's time for the voter to decide whose "brew'' is more potent.