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Malaysian opposition campaign targets 2 Cs: Change and cronyism

Publication Date : 12-06-2012

 

The next general election may still be nowhere in sight, but this just gives the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) more time to push the two Cs: change and cronyism.

The message that Anwar Ibrahim's PR coalition will send out to voters is that Malaysia deserves a change after over 50 years of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in power.

"They will call on the people to go the full way for a wholesale change in government, after going halfway in 2008," said political analyst James Chin of Monash University Malaysia.

In 2008, the PR coalition won five of 13 states, and 82 of 222 parliamentary seats.

The BN, of course, will counter this by retorting that Anwar, who rose through the ranks of Umno himself before his fall from grace, does not stand for any real change.

As always, race and religion will permeate the notion of change. Umno is pushing the message that 'change' will mean opening the door to the Chinese- based Democratic Action Party, to the detriment of the Malay community.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Chinese Association, a senior BN member, is selling the message that 'change' means allowing the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia to take the first step in setting up an Islamic state in Malaysia.

Corruption is another perennial theme this election, and it was effective in galvanising votes in 2008.

As Chin noted, corruption per se is rarely a big issue because many Malaysians have come to see it as part of the system. But cronyism angers people who are struggling to make ends meet.

The opposition has played this card repeatedly, harping on big- fish allegations like the 'cows and condos' scandal that forced former women, family and community development minister Shahrizat Jalil on the defensive.

Shahrizat's husband and children, who own a firm called the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), admitted using part of a government soft loan for cattle farming to buy luxury properties in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

The NFC has issued repeated denials of any wrongdoing.

The other big-fish scandal is the allegation that corruption was involved in the Malaysian Navy's purchase of submarines in 2006, when Prime Minister Najib Razak was defence minister.

Najib, who became Prime Minister in 2009, is running a campaign based on his personal brand of leadership and economic and political reforms that he has systematically undertaken since he took office.

This will be another prong of attack by the opposition: that Najib does not have the support of his party or the authorities for his reforms, and that he is steering alone a ship that does not want to obey.

Analysts expect these themes - a call for change, corruption and cronyism, race and religion, and reforms - to dominate the election campaign. In fact, they are already playing out on a daily basis.

 

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