Besides the feel-good budget, Najib has precious little time to beef up support for his ruling coalition.
If it does, we could expect the prime minister to call for a
dissolution of Parliament soon, making way for the much-awaited general
Therefore, we won’t be off the mark if we predicted that Najib would
be offering more goodies and cash handouts as a way of shoring up his
support base. Yes, it would be another deficit budget. And no, the
government isn’t thinking about the rising national debt, which in May,
stood at USD148 billion (RM456 billion) or 53.5 percent of GDP.
Throwing money to win support is nothing new to Najib. As of May
2012, his government gave out USD779 million (RM2.4 billion) to 4.7
million households. Students too were given money, civil servants
enjoyed pay raises and even taxi drivers were given vouchers to get
And all this despite the government running 13 consecutive annual
deficits. But the government has not managed to boost its dwindling
And yet, Najib is mulling more cash aid clearly dismissing the fact
that pump priming the economy and massive spending have failed to draw
the people to support the government.
So Friday’s budget is crucial.
Of course Najib could delay the general election until as late as
April next year, but the signs are pointing toward a November date.
And if so, besides the feel-good budget, Najib has precious little
time to beef up support for his ruling coalition, with polls suggesting
this election will be the most fiercely fought in the country’s
But if the premier still chooses to wait, he would face bigger risks.
The world economy could get worse and if it does, there is hardly any
room for the government to maneuver fiscally.
So he has got to bite the bullet.
According to recent polls, Najib’s popularity is way above that of
his party’s but he is extremely cautious and absolutely scared.
Having inherited the position of the prime minister, Najib will be
looking for his own mandate when he calls for polls. And that brings us
back to the fact that the budget, which is a crucial political tool in
clinching his ambition.
But this is easier said than done. Najib and his party are haunted by
one too many political scandals. His colleagues have been rubbished
with allegations of corruption amounting to billions of dollars.
Najib’s own image is in tatters following the opening of French
investigations related to the purchase of submarines with huge kickbacks
when he was the defence minister.
And of course the ghost of Altantuya Shariibuu, an interpreter whose
murder has been linked to the premier and his former close pal Abdul
If this is not enough headache, the prime minister has to also take
into account the 2.2 million voters casting ballots for the first time.
It’s anyone’s guess that a large number of these voters would register
protest votes against the Barisan Nasional government.
Trouble from within
We also cannot dismiss former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s
influence in the country’s politics. Neither can we forget the crucial
role he played in the revolt against former premier Abdullah Ahmad
Mahathir has not gone off the radar despite promising to retire
quietly. His comments and statements are continuously plastered in every
news media. And he has not been kind to Najib.
Mahathir recently said Najib’s cash handouts are “close to vote
buying” and predicted his government would be weak even if he comes back
Furthermore there are growing signs that the relations between Najib
and his deputy has gone from chilly to frigid. Muhyiddin Yassin has
appeared to contradict and even undermine his boss on several occasions.
So where does this leave Najib? In a very shaky position, I must say.
And to top it off, it’s highly unlikely that Malaysians would respond
to his lavish spending and efforts to create a feel-good factor, come
Charles Santiago is DAP’s MP for Klang.
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