Contest of Credibility before Malaysia’s Elections


June 8, 2012

East Asia Forum: S.Nambiar

Contest of Credibility before Malaysia’s Elections

by Shankaran Nambiar, Kuala Lumpur

Credibility is a prized asset for any government, and with general elections fast approaching in Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak is no exception to this rule.

Najib has an onerous task ahead of him because the Barisan Nasional coalition, which he heads, won only 140 out of 222 lower house seats in the last election in 2008. This simple majority of 63.5 per cent was the coalition’s worst performance since Malaysian independence in 1957.

Najib’s leadership qualities will be severely tested this time around, but he is well aware of the daunting challenge ahead. In fact, his awareness of the problems on the ground might be his strongest suit. So far, it has enabled him to take the first steps toward repairing the damage the Barisan Nasional suffered over the years since the 2008 debacle.

Two notable efforts in this direction were the launching of the New Economic Model and the 1Malaysia concept, both in 2010. These campaigns show that Najib understands that addressing issues relating to inclusiveness and governance are key to winning the upcoming 13th general elections by a convincing margin.

1Malaysia was an initiative to foster ethnic harmony, national unity and efficient governance, but the idea was strongly criticised by detractors from within Najib’s own party, the United Malays National Organisation, and by Perkasa, a group that focuses mainly on Malay rights. In short, 1Malaysia was a worthy project that could not grow for lack of support.

By contrast, the New Economic Model started off with a bang. The initial document (Part One) was published in 2010, and was a frank admission of where Malaysia stood, and what needed to be done to get it moving forward. Part Two, however, was less than spectacular, and it lacked the vision and candour that characterised its predecessor.

The discrepancies between the two documents indicate that Najib’s high expectations were crippled by political realities that he had no way of navigating. It shows that Najib has a clear picture of what ails the country, but has equal difficulty in executing his vision.

The April 2012 protests by BERSIH 3.0 and recent claims of gerrymandering, malapportionment of constituencies and irregularities in the voter lists do not make the situation any easier for Najib. The BERSIH 3.0 attempt to gather at Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) was a sign that the election process has lost some of its credibility — a view that many seem to share. The fact that 80,000 people (250,000 according to non-official sources) are willing to run the risk of being arrested or beaten by the Police to attend a demonstration is a clear sign that public discontent is on the rise.

In addition to underscoring the need for electoral reform, the protests also cast doubt on Najib’s commitment to free speech and assembly rights. Najib has raised these issues in the past, and has voiced his support for the abolishment of the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial or criminal charges. The allegations of Police harassment of media personnel at the BERSIH3.0 rally do not show Najib in a good light, despite the fact that Police excesses — even if true — need not have been on his direction.

On the economic front, there has been a great deal of prevarication on fiscal responsibility. Najib had promised to work toward fiscal balance, but the record suggests scant regard for Malaysia’s continuing fiscal deficit. For instance, Malaysia’s 1.3 million civil servants have benefited from a salary increase in the range of 7 to 13 per cent. Then there was the RM500 (US$162) one-off cash aid for households earning less than RM3000 (US$974) per month, which was announced under the 2012 budget. It is estimated that 3.4 million households will have benefited from the handout, amounting to RM1.8 billion (US$583 million).

The generosity on the expenditure side has not been matched with equal agility in increasing revenue. The proposed goods and services tax (GST) has been kept on hold, and will not be introduced before the forthcoming elections. An instrument as unpopular as a GST cannot be introduced in an election year and, moreover, the moral right to introduce this tax is called into question when allegations of corruption abound.

A case in point is the scandal surrounding the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), which was run by the husband of the then-cabinet minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat. It has been alleged that NFC funds were used to purchase two luxury condominium units and pay for Shahrizat’s family’s credit card bills in 2009, to the tune of RM600,000 (US$194,500).

Najib might have a clear idea of what needs to be done to revitalise Malaysia, but his credibility will be questioned in the months leading up to the elections. And that is his greatest challenge, because voters will judge Najib on the strength of his performance, rather than on his good, but unrealised, intentions.

Shankaran Nambiar is an economist who has consulted for various national and international agencies. He lives in Kuala Lumpur.

22 thoughts on “Contest of Credibility before Malaysia’s Elections

  1. Najib is a real kaki tembak, worse than the sleepy Badawi. Mr. Nambiar is too kind to this weak leader.

    Our unelected Prime Minister is today living in a fantasy world. The problems– most of them are of his own making–are beyond his intellectual make-up to deal with. He travels around the world to escape the reality that his days as Prime Minister are numbered. Najib will either be rejected by voters or removed by his party, UMNO (pronounced um-NO) after GE-13 since he will not be able to deliver the 2/3rd majority and will not win back Selangor because Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has done a great job.

    For the first time in our country’s history, thanks to the Kerala man, Mahathir, we do not have capable people to lead our country out of its current morass. Mahathir made sure that his competent rivals like Tun Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and others were eliminated early so that he could enjoy unimpeded power to plunder our nation’s wealth for his own benefit and those of his cronies. Gertak for Malaysia.

  2. Despite Najib have done a lot of programmes to please the Malaysians and given out a lot of goodies,the latest report by UMNO intelligence shows that the maximum seats BN can win only 130,provided that BN win all the 50:50 seats estimate around 50.T hat mean after GE 13 Najib will be under pressure to resign.His performance is worse than Pak Lah.

    My estimate the maximum BN can win only 105 seats.That mean Putrajaya will be under PKR/PR.Now we understand why Tun Mahathir has asked Najib to postpone the election and he is traveling all over the country to campaign for Najib.

    Tun is really worried sick.He will be like Mubarak if PKR/PR governs the country.

  3. We have a newcomer in Gertak Singh. Fortunately, you are not Auwtar Singh. I agree with your comments. Mr Bean knows of a man by that name who used to be in Jalan Wat Siam, Aloq Stag as security guard (jaga).

    Hamid,

    Tun Mahathir is now scared of his own shadow and, therefore, he is reacting in an incoherent manner. Maybe Mr. Bean can explain the man’s psychological make-up. If I may recall, he was Mr. Bean’s Tok Mudin. Pak Semper can tell us who is Tok Mudin.–Din Merican

  4. “If I may recall, he was Mr. Bean’s Tok Mudin. Pak Semper can tell us who is Tok Mudin”– Dato Din Merican

    For those unfamiliar with the Jewish (and later Muslim) practice of lopping of the male foreskin, the man who does it in a religious ceremony is known as Mohel to the Jews and to the Malays it is Tok Mudin – no relation of our Tok Cik. Tok Mudin for decades enjoyed a monopoly in the business of circumcision but today he has fallen on bad times. Who would expect Tok Mudin to lose his job to a plastic use-and-throw away device known as the Tara KLamp?? Thanks to Tara Singh (Bendover’s twin brother) Malays in Malaysia ought to be grateful to the Sikh community. They’re not only big, strongly and friendly guarding our vaults, one of their very own has invented this new disposable device so Malays could use on themselves minus the public embarrasment of having to announce to the whole world that they are about to loose their crowning glory. No, not their hair but their foreskin. But poor Tara Singh’s sudden shot to international fame was short lived as similar devices came on the market soon after, making a mockery of intellectual property rights.

    As for Mahathir, he wanted to join the elite club of Malays who had gone before him to England to read law but the state of the Kedah Treasury at the time did not allow him to go further than the local university. Had he not made the grade to become a medical doctor, his plan was to be the state’s Tok Mudin who at the time enjoyed a stipend the envy of the medical profession.

    But that is another matter for another day.

  5. My Tok Mudin is a Dresser at the GH in KL. It was more of a production line method. Snip snip, stitch stitch and next. No bius or anasthetic, no sterile “use once only” scaple and clamps. Same blade used many times over till it is blunt. Just dip in alcohol and its ready for its next victim.

    Today at a “Specialist Center” you will need the services of a Chief surgeon, an assistant surgeon, an anasthetitian, operating room nurse and recovery room nurse.

  6. “Najib might have a clear idea of what needs to be done to revitalise Malaysia, but his credibility will be questioned in the months leading up to the elections. And that is his greatest challenge, because voters will judge Najib on the strength of his performance, rather than on his good, but unrealised, intentions.”

    All this would make sense if Najib were facing direct elections for the post of Prime Minister. Unfortunately, we do not have a Presidential system in place. Voters would be going out to vote for the party that they think will best represent them and in this case a coalition of parties led by UMNO. Or have you forgotten?

  7. The writer highlighted 2 notable effort; 1 Malaysia & New Economic Model and as of today both effort is a good reflection of the man himself, the unelected current President and PM. It is a lot of firework but the message is never clear, a lot of intro without any content. Both effort is totally without conviction same as the man himself – a man totally lacking conviction, alway playing it safe, alway playing it politically but the thing is you are numero uno – u lead not hide.

    Of all the personality, chedet had by fate (promise and by chance) and also importantly by choice had always preferred Najib over paklah & mudin to succeed him. This is with a background of a party whose brand name is being despised with certain segment of society and detached, disillusioned by others….

    So we have only 2 notable effort over the past 3 years (is that it, Mr PM?) – 1 malaysia by a man who insipite of being so popular is so afraid of an election (so, MrPresiden – umno election also not yet). Then the other one is the NEM – which is a joke, to do paradigm shift, an economical makeover you will always need political will which the man always lack (never had one in the first place – which is why,the preferred one by chedet in the beginning). Politic is play, Governance is work – Mr Presiden and Mr PM, dont mix it up please.

    Hence, the word ‘credible’ no longer jive with UMNO or with BN. So the next point is the election itself – wondering if Mr. PM can come to a conclusion and make a decision (Mr Presiden, wait your turn – again dont mix it up or you will get confuse… OMG, you already are???)

    lets see now,
    7 – posa
    8 – raya
    9 – budget
    10 – haji
    11 – exam
    12 – ujan

    so, take ur pick, btw the lines that is. what was the min holding period for ext big boys holding fgvh shares? plus pakatan are not going to sing along when fat lady sings the GE anthem …… First Lady, please handover the dice – Mr. PM, please roll the dice NOT swallow it.

  8. Here is a well-known quote in tribute to all of Dato Din Blog’s commenters.

    A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”
    -Edward Abbey-1929-1989

    And another quote on WHY commenters on Dato Din’s Blog are doing what they are doing best.

    “”Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.
    - Edward Abbey- 1929-1989)

    Edward Paul Abbey (January 29, 1927 – March 14, 1989) was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, criticism of public land policies, and anarchist political views. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by radical environmental groups, and the non-fiction work Desert Solitaire. Writer Larry McMurtry referred to Abbey as the “Thoreau of the American West”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Abbey

  9. As far as I can see, these “2 notable efforts” weren’t efforts at all. These were merely PR propaganda to boost his image. All I can remember of his efforts are, his: saying one thing and doing the complete opposite; running away when troubles brew; making indecisive decisions, and, the “finest” one of all, planning the Perak coup de’tat. Okay, perhaps, the only ‘notable effort’ from him is BR1M, although the amount was peanuts, it was, nevertheless, enjoyed by deserving people even if the amount lasted for a very short while.

    And I concur with 2020 that ‘the word ‘credible’ no longer jives with umno and or bn’. No one there seems to think that the word even exists now. That’s why they say one think and so the exact opposite. They believe most Malaysians are just like them.

    And 2020, I don’t think Mr PM can roll the dice when he hasn’t even got them … one’s with fat mama and the other with the mamak.

  10. Nothing new lah in this article . Reads like a brief summary of events from our recent past that has lost their importance .

  11. Najib the Chairman of BN and the President of UMNO is the PM of 28 millions Malaysians. Is he credible – trustworthy and believable as PM?

    Well, since taking over the helm of PM he has come out with several policies and plans that are considered caring for all Malaysians – the hardcovers poor, the poor, the low and middle income, school children, those living in the interiors and rural areas.

    Like a good father he try to be fair and equal to all – fair in giving financial aids to all in time of needs, in time when world economy is gloomy.

    Compared to what the Pakatan is doing in Kedah, Penang, Selangor and Kelantan BN under Najib is more credible and trustworthy. Najib Economic Transformation Policies also promised more job opportunities.

  12. Anwar says ” I will show all my bank accounts if Mr Muyuddin, our deputy prime minister shows all his bank accounts ” .

    I think this Man named Anwar Ibrahim is really smart – he has out manoeuvred almost everyone – Kutty included. He seems smarter then Kutty , Muyuddin and NAJIB put together. He deserves to be Prime Minister .

  13. “Like a good father he try to be fair and equal to all – fair in giving financial aids to all in time of needs, in time when world economy is gloomy.” Adam Dollah

    Yup, and like Najib you must at least try to write grammatical English. Get yourself enrolled in ‘Learn English’ adult education classes run by Pakatan.

  14. Compared to what the Pakatan is doing in Kedah, Penang, Selangor and Kelantan BN under Najib is more credible and trustworthy. Najib Economic Transformation Policies also promised more job opportunities.-Adam Abdullah

    Adam Abdullah, don’t be one of pariah UMNO Malay idiots.

    Provide the facts …instead of talking from the lower end of your alimentary canal

  15. Looks like this Adam Abdullah is one of those UMNO cybertrooper idiots I have been talking about in other threads. They come in, spew some damn nonsense without putting their case, and go away, and then come in and make another idiotic statement.

    Facts and figures are already out in the news portal that Penang, Selangor perfomed better than any of the BN states, and Kedah has cleared all the corruption in the logging industry, and cut down debt and Kelantan is no more in debt .

    So what rubbish is this Adam Abdullah talking about?

    Here are the facts:

    “PENANG:
    When Lim Guan Eng took over Penang from UMNO and Gerakan he
    inherited a debt of almost RM 700 million and after only 4 years the debt is reduced to RM 30 million.He has balanced the budget and Penang has emerged as the state with the biggest FDI.

    SELANGOR:
    When Khalid Ibrahim the stutterer took over Selangor he was left with a reserve of RM 800 million. But after 4 years, Khalid Ibrahim has increased the cash reserves to just over RM 2 billion, balanced the budget and received the second largest FDI.

    KELANTAN:
    When Nik Aziz, the kampong man vilified by UMNO as a village ustaz in sarong who can never manage a state took over Kelantan, he inherited a debt of over RM 600 million.Now Kelantan has no federal debt.

    KEDAH:
    Similarly when Ustaz Azizan took over Kedah, he inherited a state better known for rampant losses in revenue from timber extraction.Under his management, revenue from timber and logging has increased manifold. The losses previously incurred were the result of UMNO’s gross mismanagement.

    Also, Kedah under the ustaz has also raked in more FDI than 9 other UMNO managed states. Kedah was in the top 5 states receiving the highest FDI. PAS offers a better future to the Kedahans than (UMNO) and Mukhriz can ever do.”

  16. As I said, Adam Abdullah is one of those idiotic cybertrooper who splatter human manure on your dinner table… and Mr Bean certainly doesn’t mind it…(perhaps it goes well with California red wine).

  17. By the way, the facts and figures were taken from one of Sakmongkol AK47′s earlier articles, based on data already known in the public domain eg in Malaysiakini and Malaysia Insider and reported publicly by the respective state govts.

    Screw you, Adam Abdullah.

  18. And another quote on WHY commenters on Dato Din’s Blog are doing what they are doing best.

    “”Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.
    - Edward Abbey- 1929-1989)

    geez thanks frank. trust you deflate any ego we may have. a tiny ounce does no harm you know. we feel like we are contributing to the changes. even though quite clearly we are in a warm home on a winter’s day.

    A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”
    -Edward Abbey-1929-1989

    then again is that not the crux of our problem here frank, we are not really all that patriotic are we? we malaysians like comfort and that or those which gives us the highest comfort we are loyal too until they turn around and do something completely against our comfort zone. we dont really like to fight for anything and we arent really a passionate lot about anything dont you think frank? we’ve just been floating along..

  19. human manure -goes well with California red wine Nah
    California red is enjoyed by vin afficinado.. Only Thunderbird will go well with Adam’s manure hic hic.

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