Najib Razak / Politics in general / Socio-economy / Umno & Barisan Nasional

Assessment by Financial Times

From the Financial Times today:

Malaysian PM faces big test as tight poll looms

By Jeremy Grant in Putrajaya

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak looks out through the window in his spacious office in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, and points to the foreign ministry on a nearby hill.

“They cheated the prime minister and occupied the highest spot,” he jokes, in a reference to the 1990s when Malaysia moved its government from Kuala Lumpur.

Now, as election fever rises, in the multi-ethnic southeast Asian country of 28m, Mr Najib and his long-dominant United Malays National Organisation (Umno) could be upstaged by a far bigger force: the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition, which hopes to seize power in the most contested poll in the nation’s history.

Since the era of Mahathir Mohamad, who led the country as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, Malaysia has been governed by Umno. The party and its coalition partners have enjoyed thumping parliamentary majorities that have ensured a firm grip on power since independence from Britain in 1957.

Mr Najib is expected to call an election within days after keeping the country guessing about timing. Meanwhile, the opposition, led by Mr Mahathir’s former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, believes it has its best ever chance of victory.

At the last election in 2008, Pakatan Rakyat robbed Umno and its partners in the governing Barisan Nasional coalition of a two-thirds majority in parliament.

The shock result prompted Umno to replace the incumbent prime minister with Mr Najib, a 59-year-old economist and son of a former Malaysian premier.

Such is the uncertainty over the outcome of this election, that even the prospect of a slim win by the ruling Barisan Nasional is unnerving investors. Malaysia’s stock market has been one of the worst performers in Asia this year. [not true, there is a steady increase in the KLSE for the past 3 months (8.88%) as compared to other volatile markets]

At stake is the future of a moderate Muslim country and US ally, which has been a linchpin of political unity in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as China’s regional clout has grown.

Most political analysts agree that Barisan Nasional stands little chance of regaining its two-thirds majority in parliament, but Mr Najib dismisses that in an interview, delayed by a few minutes as he completes afternoon prayers.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a good victory. Two thirds is achievable, but I also realise that in an election anything can happen so that’s why I say I am cautiously optimistic,” he says. “Investors are looking for a strong mandate for the current government. If we should, or rather when we get a good result, you will see an unprecedented boom in the stock market. I’m quite confident of that.”

Judging by the economic numbers, Mr Najib – a former finance minister [not true, he is still the finance minister] and avuncular technocrat – has the advantage of incumbency. He has presided over an economic performance last year that the International Monetary Fund said “surpassed expectations”. The economy grew by 5.6 per cent, driven by domestic demand and buoyant exports of commodities such as gas and palm oil.

The country has also been aided by an economic programme that the government launched in 2010 to double per capita income to $15,000 by 2020. That has seen billions of dollars pumped into projects in oil and gas and infrastructure, including in Iskandar, a vast industrial zone the size of Luxembourg across the strait from Singapore.

External confidence in Mr Najib’s reforms has seen foreign holdings of Malaysian government bonds jump by 550 per cent to M$215bn (US$69bn) since 2009, according to HSBC.

Mr Najib is also likely to get a small bounce from nationalist-minded voters after a military campaign to root out Filipino insurgents who recently invaded Sabah, on the Malaysian portion of the island of Borneo.

Yet there are concerns over the pace of reform, should Barisan Nasional lose, or scrape a win as most analysts see as more likely. Malaysia has a debt to GDP ratio of 51 per cent – one of the highest in Asia – and government revenues are weak. [not true, Singapore and Japan are considerably higher, twice and four times higher respectively, and many other countries have higher ratio]

Economists have urged the introduction of a general sales tax. Asked if he would do so, Mr Najib says: “I will look at the tax structure, definitely, because we need to enhance the revenue base . . . The government revenue base has to be predicated on a much stronger footing.”

The prime minister takes issue with the Pakatan Rakyat coalition’s economic proposals, which include raising the minimum wage, abolishing monopolies in telecommunications and rice, and removing excise duty on vehicles.

“I think it is too risky to put faith in a coalition that does not have a clear sense of direction that they want to take the country in. They have also presented a manifesto that is not credible,” he says.

Mr Najib argues that the opposition’s manifesto would send Malaysia’s current account into deficit within a year.

Yet Umno is vulnerable on corruption – a key weapon in the opposition’s campaign. Allegations of bribes to secure government contracts are rife, while Transparency International’s country rankings for last year revealed no significant fall in corruption levels for Malaysia. The non-governmental organisation ranked Malaysia 54th out of 176 countries in its 2012 corruption perceptions index.

The issue was thrown into sharp relief this month after allegations by Global Witness, a campaign group, of kickbacks in land deals in the state of Sarawak, involving the chief minister, who has dismissed the allegations.

Mr Najib declines to address the case, pointing out that the corruption commission is investigating. He insists the government is “equally concerned about corruption” as its critics.

“Prostitution and corruption are two things that mankind has had to live with for so long. But we are determined to tackle it. It is a scourge. But it is something that will not go away overnight,” he says.

Should the coalition eke out only a narrow win, Mr Najib – who routinely polls more favourably than Barisan – could be vulnerable to a leadership challenge. That could see him replaced by his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, a conservative Malay whose reformist credentials are untested. Mr Najib took a calculated risk last year by extending his reformist zeal to his own party, changing Umno’s constitution to make it easier to challenge the leadership.

“I’ve made Umno more democratic, more inclusive. Of course by doing that I’m putting myself at risk. But I believe that what were doing is good for the country and good for the party.”

Summarily, the article is quite fair. Although it is unfortunate that all the negative slant is based on something which is not true (as in the parentheses above). There is a strong message in the last paragraph above. Which clearly shows that apart from the economical reforms, there are reforms made from within the party; as opposed to the very autocratic and non transparent parties of DAP and PKR in recent years.

17 thoughts on “Assessment by Financial Times

  1. Whether it’s a “big test” or not is a matter of opinion. Of course, the Opposition would like to call it a gargantuan task, even an impossible feat, but then I think generally people are agreed that BN will win. Even the Economic Intelligence Unit of the Economist, with their 150 years plus experience in reporting, analyzing and forecasting economic and political developments world wide, have said BN will win.

    It’s only a matter of whether it will re-gain the 2/3 majority lost due to Tun Dol’s “flip flopping, auto piloting and sleepy administration”. In that respect, yes, it’s a big test. But then Tun Dol has long gone, no longer in power and not even influencing political thinking in this country like Tun Dr Mahathir does. And DS Najib has been trying very hard, doing a good job in drawing the non-Malay votes, and the majority of Malays still support UMNO. Many of those who voted the Opposition or spoiled their votes or didn’t go to vote out of frustration against Tun Dol at PRU12 have said openly that they will now come back to voting BN at PRU13. They have seen in the 4 states PR rule in the last 4+ years that PR is not an acceptable alternative. Even 1-2 years into power they have shown all the very weaknesses that they accuse others of.

    Yet this Financial Times report does not appear to be an analysis – it’s ordinary reporting, and the personal opinion of the reporter based on an interview with the PM. It’s only as good as the reporter is, the people he mixed with, met at hotel lobbies and bars during his short stay in this country, asking and counter-checking the opinions he formed after his interview with the PM and before he sent out his news dispatch to London. Presumably he has been talking with a few of the Opposition-minded or influenced people and that had made him use the heading “Big Test”. And he even reported some untruths, as has been pointed out by JMD above. That undermines the validity of his opinions.

    I think BN has a good chance of getting 2/3 majority at PRU13. I agree with the many opinions expressed that the Opposition is in disarray, endlessly bickering on fundamental issues like Hudud and kalimah Allah and, most of all now, on seats allocations which one top man at The Star yesterday said is still not resolved. Lim Kit Siang had to offer himself to stand in Gelang Patah and asking Anwar to announce it, hoping to diffuse the bitter PKR Chua Jui Ming and DAP Dr Boo fight, but Chua is said to be now on “protest leave”. And Anwar told reporters that he is looking for a constituency in Perak for himself, perhaps concerned about the prospect of former PAS Deputy President Nasruddin standing in Permatang Pauh.

    On top of all those is the looming prospect of DAP being de-registered by the Registrar of Societies. And I support the call for the RoS to do so – if UMNO could be de-registered during Tun Dr Mahathir’s time, why not DAP which had many members complaining and demonstrating against breaches of the party’s Articles of Association over their CEC election recently. Even Lim Kit Siang has resigned to that prospect, saying if de-registered, DAP would contest PRU13 under PAS or PKR tickets or as independents.


    • Yes, “if UMNO could be de-registered during Tun Dr Mahathir’s time, why not DAP” now? There must be no double standards.

      Breaking laws are breaking laws, same effect and RoS must protect interests of ALL members.


    • A write up in Sin Chew tends to support the view that Pakatan Rakyat may not do well in PRU13. Their problem in Johore is far from over and Anwar is said to have “lost his sense of direction”.

      Like the Star, Sin Chew also notices that PKR Johore Chief Chua Jui Meng has disappeared from public view for a week now since the announcement that Lim Kit Siang will contest in Gelang Patah. It’s said that he is dejected – he wanted to contest in Gelang Patah, but his own boss Anwar announced that Kit Siang will contest there. No constituency has been found for him. When other Pakatan people are busy in Johore, Chua is nowhere to be found.

      Anwar is said to have lost his charms and charisma and he has aged by a lot more than the five years since 2008, nothing new heard from him of late. Interesting to note is the opinion that “his past experiences in the government made him less trustworthy in the Chinese community, while his Umno background made him anything but acceptable among PAS supporters. And his pluralistic remarks have sort of alienated him from the Malay conservatives … sandwiched between the rival factions within his own party, he has lost his sense of direction.”

      Also noteworthy is the view that “PKR is the weakest component in the opposition pact .. conveniently targeted by rivals. Squeezed between DAP and PAS, its space is fast diminishing under the mounting pressure from its allies.”


      • What PKR Johor (minus Chua Jui Meng) said at a press conference last Saturday 30 March in their Johor office also indicates the possibility BN will win big at PRU13:

        Bernama reports that the tussle for seats in Johore between DAP and PKR – and PAS as well – is getting worse. PKR Johor announces its candidates for the coming 13th general elections apparently without consuting Anwar and in protest over DAP taking Gelang Patah that PKR contested in 2008.

        They appear wanting to preempt DAP from seizing other seats which were contested by PKR at PRU12, They announced PKR candidates to contest in the Johor Jaya, Tangkak and Pengkalan Rinting State Assembly seats and the Segamat Parliament seat.

        Strong words were used – Johor PKR vice-chairman Hasan Karim said, the State PKR would not allow its seats to be taken away one by one based on illogical excuses. “… once is enough, surely not all good seats are to be taken, that is not good,” he said. Sounds like a mutiny against Anwar who gave away Gelang Patah.

        They also want the seat contested by Parti Rakyat Malaysia at PRU12 – the Johor Jaya State seat. He announced that PKR Legal Bureau director Jimmy Puah Wee Tse would be contesting that seat. Again, sunding tough there, saying, “The (PKR) State Leadership Council (MPN) will not give in and take over the Johor Jaya state seat. We have locked Johor Jaya and PKR will contest there.”

        “We are not demanding (Johor Jaya) from anybody, we are only defending it in the spirit of Pakatan Rakyat where the DAP adviser is given passage in Gelang Patah in exchange for Segamat Parliament seat,” he said.

        “.. we are serious about this and we will not compromise. We gave way for Gelang Patah, but we will defend Johor Jaya,” he said.

        At the same press conference, MPN deputy chairman Dr Ahmad Faidhi Saidi said, the decision to contest in all the seats was made during a MPN meeting on March 28 at the Ayer Hitam PKR branch office which he himself chaired.

        “Almost 90 percent of the state MPN members attended and we decided that the Segamat Parliamentary, Johor Jaya, Tangkak and Pengkalan Rinting State Assembly seats belong to PKR.

        The fight with PAS in Johor has not been much in the open, but the Deputy Chairman said, “We will also ask for five more state seats because PAS is contesting too many state seats, 30 of the 56 state assembly seats of which 50 percent are in Johor,” he said.

        Poor Anwar has apparently lost the respect of the Johor PKR for announcing Lim Kit Siang’s candidacy in Gelang Patah, been ignored by PKR Johor. The chances of BN winning big at PRU13 are high.


      • People are talking serious infighting inside Pakatan Rakyat, getting worse in States like Perak, Kedah, Johor and Selangor, the main culprit being PKR.

        PKR and PAS fighting like in Bagan Serai Parliamentary constituency – PAS Bagan Serai protested against Anwar announcing PKR Perak Chief, Dr. Muhamad Nur Manuty, as candidate there, PAS saying possibility of 3-cornerd fight there and PAS boycotting the elections there.

        Also problem in DUN Changkat Jering where PAS Perak Commissioner announced Mohamad Nizar as the candidate there. PKR Perak protested saying PAS Perak is ‘balas dendam’ to PKR placing their candidate in Bagan Serai Paliamentary seat.

        There are other fights PKR and PAS, like in Kedah. Too long to write now. In short, they are talking about sabotaging each other. So how to say they got chance to win PRU13?


  2. Tun Dr Mahathir said if he was PM, he would have called PRU13 in 2012.

    But I think DS Najib is correct, Tire out these PR people with expectations, frustrations and exasperation on elections every month, every week and every day. until the last day possible for simultaneous State and Parliamentary balloting.

    And allow them to make as many mistakes a possible. Like they have been doing in the last few months. Including on the Lahad Datu intrusion. .


  3. A tight poll? On what basis Pakatan is so confidence to win? What they have have done for the past 4 or 5 years which begets to be claimed as tight race? If it is tight race, Anwar won’t run away from Permatang Pauh. If it is tight race, Lim Guan Eng won’t rush to announce the under sea tunnel project, without given due time to study the feasibility of the project; cost-wise, environmental-wise. This pre-emptive move actually smacks of desperation. The fear of losing Penang.
    BN had done and fared better post 2008 General Elections. BN had won the most seats in small elections, either state or Parliamentary seats which being held in between. BN too handsomely trounced the oppositions in Sarawak state elections not long after that; despite the opposition relentless attack on Taib Mahmud. It shows that the Sarawakians didn’t trust foreigners meddling in their affairs.
    All the talks about the closest fight, the tightest race are just nonsense and without basis. Meant to scare and paint a bleak picture regarding BN prospects. Just take a look around you. Open your eyes and minds and see how things have markedly improved. Things are getting better day by day. Don’t screw it.


    • Pakatan is not confident of winning. Prof Datuk Dr Zainal Kling, Head of the History, Heritage and Socio-culture Cluster of the National Professors Council said the opposition’s decision to turn down the 10-minute airtime on Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) indicates their fear.

      “Their decision not to accept the airtime on RTM shows they are afraid because their manifesto cannot compare to the Barisan Nasional (BN) manifesto,” he said.

      According to Zainal, if the opposition were confident with its manifesto, they would not have turned down the offer.

      But I think overall they don’t have the confidence of winning. They have so many problems now. Intra-factions within parties and intra-parties. On basic, fundamental issues. Especially seats allocations. They themselves have said there might even be 3-cornered fights – 2 PR candidates and 1 BN candidate.


    • Even Karpal Singh had expressed doubts on DAP winning Penang.

      Permit me to print below what was written about what he said not too long ago during the Karpal-Ramasamy spat (and may have some bearing on Mansor calling Lim Guan Eng Tokong for DAP wanting more seats to contest, apparently at PKR’s expense):

      Karpal, quite surprisingly, is not bursting with confidence about Penang. He knows that the Chinese support is secure but he is less sure about the Malay ground.

      “DAP has only 19 seats. We cannot form the government with 19 seats,” he said.
      Of the 40 state seats in Penang, DAP won 19, PKR 9, PAS 1 and Barisan Nasional 11. Karpal, it seems, is not sure whether PKR can deliver all of its seats.

      “Anything can happen,” he added.

      He was referring to the party’s ups and downs in Penang. In 1999, the party won only one state seat and Kit Siang and Karpal suffered shocking defeats in their parliamentary seats.


  4. The wild claims the Opposition make sometimes touch the funny bone. Lim Kit Siang is said to have said they’ll have a 7-state sweep.

    But they can’t even sweep the shit made by PKR Chief Dr Boo and PKR Chief Chua Jui Meng, quarreling endlessly, known by everybody in Johore and elsewhere. Heck, Anwar has not even found a safe constituency in Perak that he has been looking for.

    And the havoc it will be among them at PRU13 if and when DAP is de-registered. I support the view that RoS must de-register them as the evidence of wrong doings are there provided by the DAP members who submitted written complaints.

    I also agree that if UMNO was de-registered during Tun Dr Mahathir’s time, there is absolutely no reason for DAP not to be de-registered for breaching the Societies Act.


  5. For goodness sake, whack them DAP buggers.

    Don’t just whack Umno until UMNO had to use the name UMNO Baru.

    I don’t care if they want to use the name DAP Baru and keep silent on the Baru later on.

    But whack them now, Sir.


  6. Online portal The Mole quoted former DAP vice-president Tunku Aziz saying DAP as being reluctant to submit documents needed by ROS to investigate their members’ complaints concerning their CEC election last year. If so, RoS should use the big stick, give a final warning date and de-register them soon after the date.

    Tunku Aziz was referring to a statement by ROS that it had informed DAP about the documents needed and that if they were not completed, full investigation could not be done. He said “The election was manipulated to produce the results to suit their own grand strategy, which was to keep out those whose loyalty to the Lims (party adviser Lim Kit Siang and his son secretary-general Lim Guan Eng) was in doubt.”


  7. Tens of thousands of blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts. The pro-BN ones of course say BN will win. Some say will win big, 2/3 majority, even recapture the 4 states.

    But even the not clearly pro-BN blogs etc that I visit, many think BN will win. So, winning is a foregone conclusion I think. Only whether win big or not. I think will win big. Including 3, if not all, of the PR states.

    PR really fighting among themselves now. PKR is in a mess after Anwar let go Gelang Patah to Kit Siang.


  8. Saya baca di sana sini blog mengata Pakatan Rakyat rancang nak buat tak senonoh di kempen PRU13, termasuk nak pergi rumah ke rumah kononnya nak ajar Makcik. Ah Soh, Achi suri rumah tangga yang tak simpati PR cara mencelup jari ke dalam botol dakwat tak boleh basuh.

    Jenis dakwat impot Thailand ke apa, yang tak boleh hilang seminggu. Jadi mereka akan di tolak oleh pusat mengundi, tak boleh undi. Ini cara jahat. Mesti hebohkan supaya rakyat sedar dan marah hati, lebih ramai undi BN dan BN boleh menang besar.

    Kalau tak silap Menteri Rais Yatim pun ada cakap. Bagus cakap selalu, tulis selalu pasal ini lah. Saya mahukan BN menang besar.


Astound us with your intelligence!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s