Najib turning to rhetoric as funds for pork-barrel spending runs out, analysts say

Handing out money to the people through BR1M might still woo voters, but the money is running out, says an analyst. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, July 16, 2017.

A DEPLETING war chest and a fractious opposition that’s gaining cohesion is making Najib Razak go on the defensive, the South China Morning Post reports political analysts as saying.

Long-time scholar on Malaysian affairs Dr Bridget Welsh, who is now visiting professor of political science at John Cabot University in Rome, said the Dr Mahathir Mohamad-Anwar Ibrahim alliance was bound by their common desire to remove Najib and look to the future.

She said Najib’s recent defensiveness over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal amid a sluggish national economy showed that he was facing “real anxiety” as Dr Mahathir would likely evoke among voters memories of good economic times.  

Welsh believed handing out cash to voters through the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) could work, but the money was running out.

“There is less money to spend, and whatever is being handed out doesn’t make a substantial dent in the additional cost of living that is a product of Najib’s governance,” Welsh said.

“As such, the money is focused on buying the elites in the system, not the ordinary voters. He won’t have as much cash to splash around.”

She said as result of this depleting war chest, Najib was resorting to “fear, racism, and religious rhetoric” to rally support.

“He (Najib) presided over one of the worst scandals in global history in terms of money laundering and corruption,” said Welsh.

“Anyone in that position would have something to worry about.”

Independent polling firm Merdeka Centre  head Ibrahim Suffian said to counter the religious rhetoric, Dr Mahathir needed to find a way to cooperate with PAS.

He said this was to ensure straight fights instead of three-cornered fights for seats.

“If not, the Malay vote is split and Barisan Nasional will likely be able to maintain its advantage,” he said.

“The key challenge for the alliance between the erstwhile enemies is not their internal factions but rather their coalition partners DAP and Amanah to accept a compromise with other parties.”

PAS, once a mainstay of the opposition in Malaysia, has severed ties with its former allies in the opposition and appears to be on friendlier terms with Umno.

State University of New York associate political science professor Dr Meredith Weiss said the real issue that the opposition needed to address was how to avoid PAS splitting the Malay vote.

“It’s not a one-on-one between Mahathir and Najib,” she said. – July 16, 2017.

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