Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Najib bids to buy another Malaysian election

Expansionary new budget offers tax relief, welfare benefits and cash handouts in schemes critics view as veiled pre-poll vote-buying


Malaysian premier Najib Razak recently unveiled an expansionary national budget for 2018, a politically strategic spending plan to lower middle income earner taxes and increase welfare benefits broadly ahead of general elections that must be held by next August.

Najib promised to maintain fiscal prudence despite a 7.5% year on year budgetary rise during a parliamentary address that emphasized bread and butter issues linked to rising living costs. The national leader referred to the plan in a three-hour speech as “the mother of all budgets.”

“The (people) must benefit from our economic policies,” the national leader said. “We must make sure that levels of income and the quality of life for Malaysians is improving.”

The ramped up spending is consistent with Najib’s ruling United Malays National Organization’s (UMNO) past electoral tactics, where hand-outs and cash transfers are dished out to win over voters in the run-up to polls.

Government critics and opposition politicians say the spending is tantamount to vote-buying, which combined with other complaints of tainted electoral rolls, truncated campaign seasons, aggressive gerrymandering and unequal access to media unfairly tilts the electoral playing field in favor of UMNO.

Read the full story at the Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times specialising on current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.