Malaysia’s Najib lines up pre-election budget bonanza
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Malaysia’s Najib lines up pre-election budget bonanza

Prime Minister seeks to deliver the goodies to his core constituencies, reports Asia Sentinel

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is expected to table a national budget Friday that will be bulging with takeaways for prospective voters in an election that keeps receding into the future.

It is likely to include relief for first-time homebuyers and some aid for senior citizens, as well as yet more benefits for civil servants, the great preponderance of whom are Malays, Najib’s core constituency, as well as some additional assistance for people in the kampungs, or rural Malay villages. It has been estimated that there are almost no Malay families without a family member either in the civil service or the military.

The election now appears likely to be pushed back to sometime after the Lunar New Year, which begins on Feb. 10. November is unlikely, analysts say, because roughly 30,000 prospective Malay voters will be in Mecca on the hajj. Najib also has said he won’t call elections because the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition has announced that it will not call its own in the states it controls.

That apparently is because Selangor, the state surrounding the city of Kuala Lumpur, thought to be one of the opposition’s major strongholds, could be in play. The Bersih election reform NGO complains it’s because the Barisan Nasional, or ruling national coalition, has registered tens of thousands of suspicious new voters, some with scores living at the same address. The Barisan says it’s because Parti Keadilan Rakyat, which opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim heads, is badly organized and hasn’t been able to efficiently run the state government it won in 2008.

There may be truth in both claims. But in any case it probably means at least another five months of fevered politicking in a country increasingly exhausted, racially divided and tired of ceaseless maneuvering between the two forces.

The electioneering is taking place in a polarized and difficult political setting that law enforcement officials should be attempting to control and either can’t or don’t. There are growing instances of both opposition and Barisan Nasional partisans burning and stamping and urinating on the pictures of their opponents, in the Barisan’s case pictures of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and his partners from Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS, Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Hadi Awang, and Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng from the Democratic Action Party.

Continue reading at Asia Sentinel