Umno members hinted that the 14th General Election could commence as early as January although it’s only due latest by August 24, 2018.
But have Malaysian electorates already decided who should they vote?
In 2015, Prime Minister Najib Razak was caught in the 1MDB controversy where he was alleged to bag RM2.6 billion from the state-owned company into his personal account. Najib denied the allegation and Malaysia’s Attorney General cleared his charges.
However, U.S. Department of Justice is still conducting its own probe. It moved to recover $540 million that it suspects went missing from the fund this past June, as reported by Forbes.
Despite the scandal, experts and analysts said Najib and his party Umno is still set to win next year’s parliamentary elections.
But Malaysians has forgotten about it
Director of Merdeka Center, an opinion research firm, Ibrahim Suffain said that Malaysians don’t think about the 1MDB matter much anymore.
Suffain continued that some Malaysians don’t even know what to feel anymore as the government is proposing a 2018 budget that includes what analysts describe as “handouts for regular folk”.
Budget that fits the pocket for every Malaysian
The budget is set to include income tax cuts; scrapping of toll collection at Federal Highway, Bukit Kayu Hitam and Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL); and GST exemption on reading materials, oil and gas equipment, aircrafts and ships, maintenance fees for residential buildings, and donation funded for construction of schools or religious building.
Such budget could persuade many citizens to vote for Umno, including electorates residing in major cities, said analysts.
“Prime Minister Najib Razak’s self-declared ‘mother of all budgets’ has been loaded with vote-getting goodies,” wrote Saleena Saleem and Amalina Anuar in a paper for Nanyang Technology University in Singapore.
“As such, the budget represents the government’s last opportunity to demonstrate to the electorate how it intends to address the bread-and-butter issues that are topmost concerns for a sizable portion of the Malaysian population.”
It’s a sustainable budget, too
The two scholars also said that the budget allocated in this lavish spend to persuade voters is safe too.
The RM280 billion budget, a 7.1% increase over this year, would satisfy credit rating agencies and and be affordable as the International Monetary Fund among others forecast an economically strong 2018 partly plus the recovery in commodities prices, such as crude oil, natural gas and palm oil.
Trouble in Opposition Alliance
The split among the opposition, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and Pakatan Harapan alliance, is another reason why Umno is in huge advantage even without the generous budget.
“Previous by-election results in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangar in peninsular Malaysia in June 2016 already demonstrate that the incumbent government is in control of the narrative,” Saleem said in an interview.
“Voters have the tendency to forget past issues and instead focus on the tangible benefits that they get to experience in the present.”
The opposition’s proposed budget promises to resolve governance issues, abolition of GST and reinstatement of fuel subsidies. But Najib has created a more detailed budget planning than the opposition.
“It is more challenging for the opposition,” says Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Singapore in an interview with Forbes. “It’s a question of how much inroad they can make if the incumbent is concentrating on the urban votes.”