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Cashing in on Malay votes

 | June 14, 2012

'Allocations' was the major concern raised by Malay NGOs in a dialogue with the deputy prime minister.

KUALA LUMPUR: More money! This was the recurring phrase during a dialogue between Malay NGO representatives and government leaders here, underscoring the fact that cash remains a major factor in influencing voters.

The sentiment gauged from today’s dialogue with Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin strengthened the possibility of more spending by Putrajaya similar to the BR1M project that factored Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s increased popularity.

Most of them, representing NGOs from the city, took the chance to ask for more financial aid for social programmes while at the same time pledging support for the ruling coalition.

“We have been supporting the ruling coalition since the start… but we need more money for our social programmes,” said one leader representing the DBKL residents association.

Muhyiddin replied that the government often provided allocations for them and would consider increasing the amount.

And in his speech prior to the dialogue, the Umno leader warned that the NGOs must maintain support for the current administration to enjoy such benefits.

Key constituents

These NGOs represent a huge voter pool. The one mentioned above had close to one million members. Appeasing them was key to Najib’s aim to recapture seats in the city, most of which were now held by the federal opposition bloc Pakatan Rakyat.

The PM’s RM500 cash aid to the poor – majority of them being Malays – under the BR1M project was among the many policies observers said that was drafted to win their support.

It is understood that the Najib administration was considering a second round of cash handouts under a similar project to bolster support which was still weak.

A news portal’s compilation of projections by the opposition pact’s three component parties largely matched BN’s intelligence reports which saw the ruling coalition assured of 80 seats with up to a possible further 50 wins.

“Although the BN surveys show it could place up to 146 lawmakers in Parliament, just two short of a two-third super majority, sources say this prognosis came immediately after the RM500 cash handouts to low-income families under the BR1M scheme,” it said further.

A Special Branch survey was more unfavourable with its report showing a BN win in only 118 federal seats, worse than its current tally of 140 seats.

This was likely the major cause behind Najib’s decision to delay calling for national polls.

Game changer

Surveys and analysis conducted by Pakatan purportedly showed it could win over 100 federal seats if polls were called soon but Najib was expected to use next year’s budget as the “game changer”.

The BN chief recently announced that next year’s budget would be tabled on Sept 28 and was expected to include a repeat of BR1M which the Umno president had admitted was in the pipeline.

Najib’s political future depended on his ability to redeem BN’s dismal performance in the 2008 elections and was unlikely to hold the general election due by mid-2013 unless he was confident of improving on BN’s standing.

The haj pilgrimage on Oct 26, Deepavali on Nov 13 and BN’s efforts to court the youth and Chinese vote could see Najib delay calling for elections till November.

BN would see itself facing what had been described as a “do-or-die” elections especially with some 2.2 million voters casting their ballots for the first time.


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