On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Strong signs that polls will be called soon

It's a long journey for the parties involved as they have
to fly to London or Frankfurt for a connecting flight to Caracas.

There have been no signals from the Prime Minister's office over the status of
Abdullah's itinerary, which requires Abdullah to stay in Caracas until Feb

But it is almost certain that Abdullah will give the G15 summit a skip and
focus his attention on preparations for the general election.

It is likely that Abdullah would shift his energies on his whirlwind tour of
the nation and this week, he will focus on the northern states.

An official announcement on the cancellation of the trip would be a strong
indication that the polls would surely be called soon.

Last week, he flew to Terengganu and Sarawak, where he met state Barisan
Nasional leaders. The messages and mood of the huge gatherings were familiar,
all pointing to the polls.

On Sunday, flags of the Barisan were put up in several strategic spots in
Penang, particularly in areas where election workshops were being

In Tasik Glugor, PAS and Umno appeared to lock horns by competing to put up
flags at the highest points of the trees in the area.

Going by the probabilities, it is possible that Parliament would be dissolved
as early as March 7 before its scheduled session the following day.

It would serve little purpose for the honourable members if Parliament is
dissolved midway.

In the 1999 elections, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dissolved Parliament midway in
the session – the first time in the country's history – but that was because he
had to table the Budget.

This time, there is no such predicament for Abdullah. Most MPs would rather
spend their time campaigning instead of attending the daily meetings for a

Most Barisan MPs will not relish the idea of allowing their opposition
counterparts to use the Dewan Rakyat to score political points in the run up to
the elections.

The Government also does not want the opposition to bring up potentially
embarrassing issues, which would put the former on the defensive.

If Parliament is dissolved by March 7, the Elections Commission will probably
fix nominations within two weeks and polls are likely to be held by the end of
March or early April. The campaigning period would probably be less than 10
days this time.

Over the next one week, most Barisan parties would have drawn up their list of
potential candidates. The distribution of the 25 new parliamentary seats would
need to be quickly finalised in the coming weeks to enable the component
parties to gear up in these new areas.

According to informed sources, even that should not be a problem as the
majority of the new seats would go to Umno, which has a strong campaign

The time is right – Abdullah, who has just completed his 100 days in office, is
probably the most popular Malaysian leader now.

With Abdullah likely to announce his decision to call off his trip to Caracas
this week, it should be all systems go from now for the elections.