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M’sia: Juz wondering?

In Malaysia on 02/03/2012 at 6:00 am

Wonder if Malaysian tycoon Ananda Krishnan is selling assets (juz put his satellite firm on the market after getting bids for his power plants) because of the expectation of an early general election that could further weaken the governing coalition, or which it could even lose? He benefited over the years from government policies.

In its inaugral ISEAS Monitor, this is what ISEAS* says about M’sia especially the probability of an election soon:

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s recent acquittal on sodomy charges has dominated the media, and will be asignificant factor in Malaysia’s forthcoming 13th general election.

Barring unforeseen developments,Prime Minister Najib Razak will dissolve parliament and call the election no later than June. Both the Barisan Nasional (BN) government and opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) will accelerate preparations for the much anticipated poll.

Although Najib’s administration is saddled with several thorny problems and the election does not have to be held before March 2013, he may feel the need to go early for two reasons.

First, Najib has to consolidate his position within his United Malays National Organisation before UMNO’s own elections are held in the second half of 2012.

The second reason is that a weakening global economy in 2012 can adversely affect largely export dependent Malaysia. With inflation already hurting ordinary Malaysians, a slowing domestic economy will cost votes for the BN. The budget deficit is estimated at 5.4% of GDP in 2011, limiting the government’s ability to provide further stimulus spending in 2012. The government’s hand will be further constrained by the next round of reduction and rationalisation of subsidies, expected soon.

Since 2009, millions of dollars have been spent on public relations efforts to burnish the image of BN and of Najib in particular. The government has awarded bonuses and salary increments to the 1.4 million-strong civil service,and more handouts can be expected in the coming months. In January 2012, Najib toured Perak, Selangor, Penang, Perlis and Perak, as well as the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, to rally support. He is scheduled to visit Terengganu and Johor in February.

UMNO, through the mainstream media,especially the party-owned Utusan Malaysia, and its NGO proxies,spearheaded by PERKASA, can be expected to ratchet up race and religion themes. The mainstream media predictably will publish more reports that detail or generate conflicts within the PR component parties.

For their part, the opposition parties will use the alternative and social media to highlight the government’s corrupt and crony practices. It will promise clean and transparent governance, using the example of members of the Executive Council of the Democratic Action Partyled Penang state government declaring their assets. It will also offer to revise the lucrative terms granted to highway toll operators and independent power plant companies, and pledge to retain if not expand subsidies to ease the plight of Malaysians in anticipation of the economic slowdown.

Key points: What impact will freshly acquitted Anwar have on the elections,especially in view of the prosecution’sdecision to appeal? How are the election results likely to affect relations between Singapore and Malaysia?

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*”The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies is a regional research centre dedicated to the study of socio-political, security and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment”. It is also a statutory board whose funding comes from the S’pore government.

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