Monsoon may hurt Umno’s ambition, but budget will be antidote, say analysts

Noel Achariam Raevathi Supramaniam

Snap elections may backfire on Umno as public sentiment is generally negative, seeing as polls are being held during monsoon and flooding season. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, October 11, 2022.

THE snap elections called by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob may not be as beneficial as Barisan Nasional (BN) expects them to be.

A case in point is the 1999 general election, which was called by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to cement his position as the country’s leader after Anwar Ibrahim was jailed.

International Islamic University Malaysia academic Tunku Mohar Tunku Mohd Mokhtar said the situation then was different.

“The year 1999 was different. Despite the substantial loss of Malay support, Umno and BN then benefited from the confusion of non-Malay voters about Barisan Alternatif, comprising PAS and DAP,” he said.

“The opposition alliance was still finding its footing then, and besides the Anwar factor, there were not many scandals the opposition could benefit from,” he said.

BN returned with its two-thirds’ majority though Umno suffered losses in the Malay heartland and lost the Terengganu government to PAS.

In 1999, BN won 148 out of the 193 seats in the Dewan Rakyat.

Tunku Mohar said the political climate is different now.

“This (holding snap elections) may backfire on Umno as public sentiment is against holding the GE in view of the monsoon season,” Tunku Mohar told The Malaysian Insight.

“Voters may decide to punish Umno for the indiscretion. And, there was not much enthusiasm about the handouts given in the recent budget.”

The only thing Umno and Barisan Nasional have in their favour for an election victory is a fractured opposition, say political analysts. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, October 11, 2022.

The only thing Umno has got going for itself at the moment is a fractured opposition, he said.

“Even then, it is not guaranteed, as the choice of Umno candidates would not guarantee acceptance by the various factions in the party. This may in fact work against Umno.

“Since 2008, however, Umno and BN have failed to gain two-thirds’ majority in parliament.”

From 2008, BN has been unable to win a supermajority – 148 out of the 222 seats in parliament.

In 2018, it took a lashing, winning only 79 seats, therefore losing its foothold for the first time in 60 years, installing Pakatan Harapan (PH) as the new government.

PH’s victory was however short-lived. After 22 months, the government collapsed due to the Sheraton Move – triggered by Bersatu exiting the coalition and Dr Mahathir’s resignation.

This saw Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin replace Dr Mahathir as prime minister. Seventeen months later, Muhyiddin’s tenure ended after Umno withdrew support for him.

Ismail was then installed as ninth prime minister, effectively marking the return of Umno to the administration three years after the 2018 polls.

With its winning streak at the Malacca and Johor elections, Umno has been pressing Ismail to dissolve parliament for months, culminating in rumours that it would be dissolved today or sometime this week after Ismail had an audience with the king on Sunday night.

Momentum with Umno

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said post-2018, Umno has regained its momentum and is set to win the most seats in the upcoming polls, whenever it may be called.

“Umno would emerge with the most parliamentary seats and be in a position to drive the next ruling coalition,” Oh said.

“This is because the Malay backflow to Umno is significant, as conservative Malays, who make up the bulk of the voters, would not like to see a reversion to PH rule, which they see as not conducive to the preservation of their special positions and privileges.”

BN is currently in a tenuous relationship with Muhyddin-led Perikatan Nasional. Together, they hold 115 seats in parliament.

Barisan Nasional is in a shaky relationship with Perikatan Nasional, which together hold 115 seats in parliament. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, October 11, 2022.

BN’s manifesto is Budget 2023

University of Tasmania’s James Chin said calling the general election right after the budget means it could be used as a manifesto for BN.

“The dissolution, whether done immediately after budget or later, is irrelevant,” Chin said.

“The budget is the formal document that releases the money, but during the election all the budget items can actually be part of the manifesto.

“The party in power is the one that puts together the budget, so the budget is basically the manifesto for Umno and BN.”

The government announced one of the biggest budgets in Malaysia’s history, allocating RM372.3 billion for next year.

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz dismissed claims that the budget would be redundant should Ismail decide to dissolve parliament before the federal spending plan is granted passage.

He said it can be tabled again after elections are held, citing the 1999 snap polls as precedent.

The highlight includes a RM2,500 aid for households with five children or more with incomes of less than RM2,500 per month under the Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia scheme. 

A 2% income tax cut for the RM50,000 to RM100,000 income bracket was also introduced, which means the mid-income group gets up to RM1,000 in tax savings, and the high-income group gets up to RM250.

The M40 e-Pemula Initiative will see e-wallet credit worth RM100 for the M40 group with annual income below RM100,000, which will benefit eight million individuals.

An allocation of RM55 billion for subsidies, social assistance and incentives has also been set aside. – October 11, 2022.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.