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Umno leaders hint Malaysia's election could be as soon as January

KUALA LUMPUR Malaysia's upcoming general election could be held as soon as next month, Umno leaders hinted yesterday as the country's biggest political party holds its annual meeting.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also Umno's acting deputy president, told the party wings at its launch yesterday that Umno has to receive a resounding victory at the ballot box.

"The 14th General Elections draw closer... Come January or March, or whichever month for that matter, we will brave through it," he said.

In a closed door briefing earlier yesterday, Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also Umno president, mentioned in passing the month of January when speaking to delegates about gearing up for polls. But not everyone thinks the hint is literal.

"He said that by January we must be there (ready).

"It is not the date," said Umno information chief Annuar Musa.

"The message is to do it now, do not delay, settle all the problems, stay focused and get prepared for general elections."

Umno, the country's ruling party, has been in power since independence in 1957. At the last election held in May 2013, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional ruling coalition lost the majority vote for the first time.

Umno leaders have been hinting about polls since last year, but with the election due by next August, the party's top brass is now firming up the timeline.

In Mr Najib's recent budget announcement, he offered one-off payments to civil servants, village chiefs and religious figureheads.

The first tranche of the RM1,500 (S$498) payment will be made next month. Meanwhile, a popular cash handout for the poor will be carried out in February.

With Umno's community-style politics entrenched in rural and semi-rural areas where grassroots members act as community leaders and party machinery in canvassing votes, such government giveaways often act as indicators of elections.

WORLD