Malaysia readies for national election
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Malaysia readies for national election

Two years of fevered campaigning appear to be almost over, reports Asia Sentinel

It is beginning to appear that the national elections that have been expected in Malaysia for the past two years will finally come off, sometime after the Lunar New Year, which begins on Feb. 10.

The election must be held before mid-April. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is expected to request the dissolution of Parliament somewhere between the middle of February and the middle of March.

Because of the long and delayed electoral gestation period, during which both the Barisan Nasional, or ruling national coalition, and the three-party Pakatan Rakyat opposition have campaigned feverishly across the country, the Barisan has had the opportunity to deliver two complete election budgets replete with goodies for the voters who make up the base in the Malay heartland.

There have been no reliable tallies taken on the possible outcome. Bank Islam Bhd, a commercial bank, apparently fired its chief economist, Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin, for presenting a probability-weighted base-case scenario of an opposition victory, although Azrul had apparently also produced several scenarios including a best-case scenario of a narrow win for the Barisan Nasional.

In any case, in a bid to attract the electorate, on Feb. 1, the government will deliver RM500 (US$166) to every family making less than RM3000 per year, which is very much targeted at rural Malay and Indian voters. In addition, the government has delivered raises to the military and government workers, who also are largely comprised of ethnic Malays. It has declined to mess with the 30 percent gap between subsidized and real fuel prices and it has sought to put money into the pockets of the hundreds of thousands of workers in the Federal Land Development Authority, the world’s largest plantation operator.

The opposition, headed by Anwar Ibrahim, has campaigned largely on allegations of endemic corruption on the part of the United Malays National Organization, the country’s largest ethnic political party, of which there is plenty to go around. Transparency International in a recent report, said Malaysia ranked worst among 30 countries in the 2012 Bribe Payers Survey. Common sense would indicate that Malaysia, while it isn’t clean by any means, ranks well above both Indonesia and the Philippines in corruption pervasiveness.

Most recently, a carpet-seller named Deepak Jaikishan delivered sensational charges, complete with receipts, that he interceded at the request of the prime minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor, and other members of Najib’s family to shut up Perumal Balasubramaniam, a Kuala Lumpur-based private detective who alleged in a sworn declaration in 2008 that Najib had had a sexual relationship with Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian national at the center of a massive corruption scandal involving bribes paid to UMNO in the purchase of two submarines. Altantuya was murdered in 2006 by two of Najib’s bodyguards. The two are currently appealing death sentences in a process that mysteriously has been delayed for months. Neither Najib, his wife or his family has responded to Deepak’s charges, which have been largely ignored by everybody but the opposition.

The scandal has been largely discounted by the electorate, partly because it has been percolating for more than six years. New revelations, including those emanating from prosecutors in France, have pretty much been disregarded and attributed to the opposition.

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