Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tough Race for Malaysian Election 2013


At last, it is the beginning of the election fever following the dissolution of the Parliament announced by Malaysian Prime Minister on April 3, 2013. The Malaysian General Election will be held on May 5, 2013. Many Malaysians, including myself, either in Malaysia or staying abroad, are excited to return home and vote as the citizens for the upcoming general election.  

The election campaign is a totally different experience than what I had in the United States of America. When it comes to the election campaign in Malaysia, we will see many banners, buntings and signboards are decorated on the streets throughout the country. On top of that, Malaysians love to meet and attend debate seminars which are organised by politicians of any parties every night, until the day before the general election. Even, the advertisements are also bombarded all over television, radio, newspapers and even on the internet to lure and brainwash the public to vote for their parties. However, it is different scenario of the election campaign in the United States of America. Neither huge banners, signboards, flags can be seen on the streets in the United States of America. Even the speech debate is held at selected states in order to lure for the votes unlike in Malaysia, it is held every night at different location of every town of every state in Malaysia in order to get to know the people closely.

Political analysts and even the Ruling and Opposition parties believe that there will be a huge change from the election votes as majority of  young and middle-age voters, want the change in the government in order to tackle the problems of inflation, safety issues and corruption in the country in this coming general election.


Malaysian Election 2013 Campaigning with banners, buntings, signboards, on the streets in Malaysia
Malaysian Election 2013 Campaigning with banners, buntings, signboards, public speaking seminars on the streets in Malaysia


Malaysian Election 2013 Campaigning with banners, buntings, signboards, public speaking seminars on the streets in Malaysia
Malaysian Election 2013 Campaigning with banners, buntings, signboards, public speaking seminars on the streets in Malaysia


Malaysian Election 2013 Campaigning with banners, buntings, signboards, public speaking seminars on the streets in Malaysia
Malaysian Election 2013 Campaigning with banners, buntings, signboards, public speaking seminars on the streets in Malaysia

Malaysia's political parties targeting youth vote

australianetworknews australianetworknews

Published on Feb 28, 2013  Source: Australia Network news via youtube
Both the Malaysian Government and Opposition are attempting to secure the youth vote as a general election must be held by June. Younger generations now make up a substantial part of the voting public, with social media playing a bigger role than ever before.

 



Malaysia election

Facing a raft of domestic issues, can Malaysia's government weather a growing opposition onslaught to win the elections?

Last Modified: 19 Apr 2013 15:31  Source: AlJazeera English, 101 East 




In Malaysia, the 13th general election has been called by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak after a year-long speculation.

More than 13 million Malaysians will go to the polls on May 5. This is the first time that the ruling party has gone through the full five-year term before dissolving parliament.

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Critics claim that the ruling coalition has lacked confidence to face the electorate on several contentious issues. It faces growing anger due to rising racial and religious tensions, allegations of corruption involving its leaders directly or indirectly, the rising cost of living, police brutality, continued detention without trial and the awarding of scholarships to students based on racial quota and not merit.

Najib, who became prime minister after his predecessor quit four years ago, has never led the party in a general election and political pundits argue that this has put him in a difficult position to force through any potential policy changes.

The election could be the closest in history. Najib needs to reverse the huge gains the Anwar Ibrahim-led opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR) made in 2008, when the ruling National Front lost five of 13 states and the two-thirds majority which it had enjoyed since Independence about 57 years ago.

The issues of the campaign include race, vote buying, electoral fraud, Hudud law and corruption.

The race card
A key factor in Malaysian elections is the question of race.

Most, if not all, parties are race-based and candidates are chosen with their ethnicity as the main consideration. Both sides of the divide are using the race card subtly or otherwise in their campaigns.

Despite several measures and concessions made to please the Chinese electorate, the community appears to be steadfast in its anti-establishment stand.

The Chinese-majority state of Penang which fell to the opposition for the first time is a symbol of non-Malay support for any party.

Several Malay NGOs are using the racial sentiment by calling for Malays to unite in order to preserve their supremacy which is enshrined in the Malaysian constitution.

They have openly demonstrated against policies that they claim has eroded their legislated special rights, especially in Penang where the 42-year-old New Economic Policy (NEP) favouring them, has been dismantled.

The government argues that the private sector is almost absolutely controlled by the Chinese and has very little opportunities for the Malays.

The private sector say this claim is unfair, as it does not receive preferential treatment from the government and they are all self-made with meritocracy being the most important consideration. Meanwhile, the government critics say, state funds are mainly from the revenue of the taxpayers which should be allocated for all.

The two hottest election battlegrounds are Penang and another opposition-ruled state Selangor in central Malaysia. The states attract the highest number of investments, providing strong revenue to the federal government. Najib has declared that these two states must be won at any cost while the opposition is fighting hard to keep them in its stable.

Vote buying?
To win back diminishing popular support, the current administration started giving out cash handouts from last year to almost every segment of the society, saying that this was to alleviate the hardship brought about by the rising cost of living.

Civil servants, who traditionally support the ruling party, were given higher salaries and allowances. The opposition claims this is tantamount to vote buying, but the people are not complaining.

To counter this, the opposition alliance announced that it will bring down fuel prices and cut car prices drastically. And as another major draw, it announced that it will provide free education right up to tertiary level if it comes to power.

Electoral fraud

Claims of electoral fraud and allegations of the election commission as the ruling party’s tool were brought to the fore by the clean election movement called Bersih meaning clean.

Three major demonstrations were held over the last two years by the group. It attracted tens of thousands of protestors which turned violent when the police used brutal methods to quell them.

The government made some concessions finally but Bersih claims they are not enough with evidences of tainted electoral roll surfacing often.

Another major factor in the election is the more than three million first time voters.

While they are said to be generally leaning towards the opposition, the National Front has put in a lot of resources to win their hearts by using social media, an important campaign tool. The mainstream media are all owned by the government or linked to it.

Islamic law 
Another contentious issue is the move by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) to try and usher in a future where the Islamic way of life becomes a part of every day life in Malaysia. PAS says they are willing to discuss the issue, but the implementation of the Hudud law is a matter beyond question and not up for negotiation or debate of any kind.

Despite disagreement with its partners over this, it has started pushing for the implementation of hudud in the state of Kelantan which it had been ruling for the last 20 years. Several Islamic practices are already in place there.

It says hudud would address a multitude of issues affecting Muslims. However, the non-Muslims fear that there will be long-term direct and indirect effect on them although on the surface it is meant only for the Muslims.

The opposition alliance is now in a bit of a fix over this - supporting the plan will mean losing non-Muslim votes while opposing it will see a backlash from Muslim voters. Depending on how the opposition alliance handles this issue, it will affect not only the thinking of Muslim voters but also the stand of the fence-sitters and new voters.

Corruption
Corruption has never played a big role in Malaysians' voting decision in the past. However, things have changed this time around with the rapid advent of news portals and the social media.

The opposition has capitalised on this and used it to expose many corrupt practices involving government ministers and their family members. Although Najib announced strong measures to eradicate corruption, it does not seem to be winning the hearts and minds of the people, as those implicated continue to hold office.

Others who have been charged have either won their cases or have their appeals pending.

(Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/2013/04/2013417101152169523.html) 



Insight: Malaysia opposition sees state model guiding path to power



By Stuart Grudgings

GEORGETOWN, Malaysia (Reuters) - Lim Guan Eng, the hyperactive chief minister of Malaysia's Penang state, is not the type to miss a good photo-opportunity, so there were plenty of witnesses when he handed over the keys to his government Mercedes ahead of a May 5 general election.

Integrity is a central battle cry for Malaysia's disparate three-party opposition as it pursues its best chance of ending 56 years of rule by the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

"The official cars should not be misused for our own personal use," Lim, a 52-year-old ethnic Chinese, told reporters as his administration shifted to caretaker status this month. "This is the integrity held by the state administration."

Five years after the opposition took control of four state governments, northwestern Penang will be Exhibit A in its case that it can make Southeast Asia's third-largest economy cleaner and more competitive.

Malaysia's second-smallest state topped the state investment league for the first time in 2010 and again in 2011, bolstering its position as a hub for high-tech manufacturers such as Intel and Honeywell.

Overall investment doubled in 2008-12 compared with the previous four years, a powerful rejoinder to the BN's claims that the opposition cannot be trusted to run the economy.

The BN, or National Front, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, points to a 73 percent slump in Penang's investment last year and mounting traffic congestion in the state, which also draws tourists to its beaches and the colonial elegance of its capital Georgetown, as evidence Lim's touch is wearing thin.

But the opposition hopes Lim's reforms to tackle corruption linked to laws favoring majority ethnic Malays will resonate with a bulging younger generation of voters angry at graft and less attached to race-based politics.

Polls suggest a narrow win for the BN, which lost the two-thirds parliamentary majority that allowed it to change the constitution for the first time in 2008.

POTENTIAL SHAKE-UP
The "Penang model" also highlights risks to investors from an opposition victory, which promises to unravel five decades of cozy relations between the government and business in what would be the biggest shake-up since independence from Britain.

Led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, it says it will review suspicious contracts and cancel some, including a controversial $800 million rare-earths plant built by Australia's Lynas Corp. Its manifesto also pledges to break up "monopolies" in certain sectors.

"We wouldn't want to take any action that would destabilize the market, but at the same time it doesn't mean they can get off scot-free, no," Lim, who will campaign nationwide, told Reuters in an interview. "The imperative should be there are no crony-driven contracts."

Major firms and tycoons seen as having close ties with the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the dominant party in the ruling coalition, could suffer.

"On individual stocks, (it would be) disastrous, I should think," said Gerald Ambrose, managing director at Aberdeen Asset Management in Kuala Lumpur, adding that the overall stock market had likely priced in some risk of an opposition win.

REFORM, NOT REVOLUTION
When Lim, who was imprisoned for 18 months under draconian security laws in the 1980s, took over Penang, he began a social and economic experiment that outraged UMNO traditionalists. From now on, state public works contracts would be awarded through open, computerized tenders rather than direct negotiations.

Some portrayed it as a dangerous move to tear down the New Economic Policy (NEP), a system of affirmative action introduced following race riots in 1969 between Malays and economically dominant Chinese. Lim says he was targeting distortions in the policy that have enriched an elite few.

"It was pure pork-barreling," Lim says of the old system.

The NEP is credited for nurturing a Malay middle-class, but "bumiputras" (Malays and indigenous people) still make up the majority of low-income Malaysians. Economists say the policy has deterred investment and driven a brain drain, especially of ethnic Chinese, entrenching Malaysia's "middle-income" trap.

The reforms leveled the playing field for small Malay businesses, Lim says, enabling them to win contracts based on merit rather than connections. Smaller firms still have special protection because all contractors for "class F" jobs up to 200,000 ringgit ($64,500) must be bumiputra by federal law.

Even for higher value contracts, Lim says Malay firms now win more than 70 percent of open tenders in Penang. State figures show the value of contracts won by bumiputra firms doubled from 2008 to 2011.

As he oversaw workers renovating a small Muslim prayer centre in Georgetown -- a job won through open tender -- 28-year-old Ahmud Kairul Arif scorned the idea that as an ethnic Malay his business would need special help.

"There has been a shift which means we can compete against the Chinese," said the graduate in project management. "I'm willing to go out from my comfort zone to compete."

TAKING "PENANG MODEL" NATIONAL
Prime Minister Najib has said the opposition's generous and sometimes vague campaign pledges, which include free university education and the abolition of road tolls, would explode the national budget deficit.

Lim says he has saved about 25 percent of state spending compared with the previous administration through cutting graft. Penang's budget surplus grew 57 percent between 2008 and 2011, even as a chronic federal budget deficit pushed the national debt to 53 percent of the economy from 41 percent in 2008.

"It would be a model to say that if we are financially prudent, with a little money we can do a lot of things," said Tony Pua, a leading opposition parliament member. "There's a lot more we can do with the federal budget."

Transferring Penang's policies to the national level would not be straightforward. The three other states run by the opposition, including two by the Islamist PAS party, have had more mixed records on governance and transparency.

The state's 1.6 million population is evenly balance between Chinese and Malay, whereas Malays outnumber Chinese nationally by 60 percent to around 25 percent, making reforms to race laws more sensitive.

But Penang's influence has already been felt at the national level as the government comes under pressure to award more contracts through open tender and end what critics say are sweetheart deals with favored businessmen.
Rolling back privileges enjoyed by bumiputras -- literally "sons of the soil" -- is political dynamite for Najib, who faces heavy resistance to reform from within UMNO.

In an interview with Reuters in March, Najib said that the "vast majority" of federal government contracts were now awarded through open tender, adding he made "no apologies" for some that are negotiated directly.

"There are certain tenders that we carve out for bumiputra, but we would allocate that to the deserving bumiputra," he said.

Malaysia's Finance Ministry and the government's Performance Management Delivery Unit declined interview requests.

A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2006 identified opaque government procurement practices as a major stumbling block in talks on U.S.-Malaysia free-trade deal, which remains stalled.

"Malaysia's procurement process falls short in three key areas: lack of transparency, outright corruption, and bumiputra requirements and preferences," it said.

As they hit the campaign trail, opposition politicians are reminding Malaysians of what they say are a litany of major projects and concessions handed out in cozy deals.

Its prime target is Syed Mokhtar, the country's richest ethnic Malay with a net worth estimated at $3.3 billion. The opposition says he has built up his business empire, which encompasses power, telecoms, cars and ports, through close ties with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and now with Najib.

"What is so special about Syed Mokhtar that he has to have a finger in every pie in Malaysia?" said opposition MP Pua.

Among others, it has highlighted the $100 million sale announced in February of aerospace firm CTRM Sdn Bhd, a profitable subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance, to a unit of Mokhtar's DRB-Hicom, which was not bid publicly.

Mokhtar rarely speaks to media and did not respond to Reuters' request for an interview. In an authorized biography published late last year, he said he was the victim of media bias and denied receiving special favors.
(Editing by Alex Richardson)

(Source:  http://sg.news.yahoo.com/insight-malaysia-opposition-sees-state-model-guiding-path-212010091.html)



Airlines See Ticket Sales in Malaysian Election

Airlines are hoping to cash in on the huge interest in Malaysia’s upcoming May 5 elections by offering discounts and promotions to entice Malaysians living abroad to come home to vote.

Reuters
AirAsia hopes Malaysians living abroad will seize its special promotions to return home to vote on May 5.
“Fly Home to Vote” kicked it off, with cheap tickets offered by discount carrier AirAsia Bhd.  

“We foresee many Malaysians will be making travel plans to return to [home], and we hope that our low fares will help provide convenience for people to fly back for the elections,” Aireen Omar, chief executive of AirAsia, said in a statement.

Malindo Air and national flag carrier Malaysian Airline System Bhd followed with their own enticements.

There are over one million Malaysians living and working outside Malaysia, according to MyOverseasVote, a group set up to campaign for the right of Malaysians abroad to vote. Roughly 40% work in Singapore and 20% in other Asian countries, the group said.

Electoral watchdog group Bersih says it is important for overseas Malaysians to cast their ballots given persistent charges of voter fraud and the public’s lack of confidence in the electoral system.

“We’re urging people to come back to vote and be sure that their votes will go to their preferred party because we’re gravely concerned about the possibility of fraud,” Bersih co-chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan told The Wall Street Journal.

National flag carrier Malaysian Airlines System Bhd isn’t offering any special fares, but it will allow Malaysians to change their flight schedules to around the election period free of charge, a company spokesperson said. Some travel will be domestic, as people work in one place but vote in another. The company’s low-cost offshoot, Firefly, is offering one-way fares of MYR66 for all domestic destinations.

Malindo Air, which received approval to begin commercial operations in February, said it will extend its special fares for travel around the peninsula and the two states in the Malaysian Borneo island.

(Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/04/12/airlines-see-ticket-sales-in-malaysian-election/)



Opposition fears amid Malaysia campaigning


Published on Apr 20, 2013   Source: AlJazeera English via Youtube


Campaigning is under way in what could be Malaysia's closest election in years.
The ruling party has been in power for 56 years - since the country's independence.

But the opposition claims that over the decades a strong relationship between the party and government agencies tasked with conducting the election leaves them at a disadvantage.
Al Jazeera's Florence Looi reports from Kuala Lumpur

 


 

Sex, sabotage and videotape in Malaysian campaign





Malaysia's ruling establishment has been accused of resorting to "gutter politics" as a bruising election campaign starts amid outrage over sex videos and opposition charges of sabotage.

The May 5 vote looks to be a typically hard-fought and polarising Malaysian election as a 56-year-old regime faces the fight of its life against a rising opposition.

But analysts warn negative tactics in the campaign that officially began on Saturday could backfire on the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

Premier Najib Razak had pledged to oversee a civil election run but advocates for a clean campaign have cried foul over alleged improprieties in what one group has warned will be Malaysia's "dirtiest election ever".

A top figure in an opposition Islamic party in the Muslim-majority nation was forced recently to deny involvement over an online video claiming to show him in a tryst with a young woman.

The opposition said more such videos were expected, including one purportedly involving Nurul Izzah Anwar, the parliamentarian daughter of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was himself targeted in a 2011 sex video claim.

Reports of election violence have mounted, mostly involving attacks on opposition supporters, with one man reportedly in a coma after being beaten.
Adverts have run in some areas suggesting the opposition would impose Islamic law on non-Muslims, which the opposition decries as dangerous religious fear-mongering.

"I deplore gutter politics and demand that Prime Minister Najib have the decency to not only condemn but also to ensure those behind the sex videos and political violence face the full brunt of the law," Nurul Izzah told AFP.

Najib's office did not respond to a request for comment.

UMNO became notorious for hardball tactics under authoritarian leader Mahathir Mohamad, who dominated Malaysia for 22 years until retiring in 2003.

The most searing example involved Anwar, who was poised to inherit UMNO's reins but was ousted in a 1998 power struggle with Mahathir that saw Anwar jailed for six years on sodomy and corruption charges widely seen as dubious.
The affair threw Anwar into the three-party opposition, which he led to its best showing ever in 2008 elections.

Anwar last year was acquitted in another sodomy case and denies any link to the 2011 video.

"Many in the public do not think that these videos are credible," Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia politics expert with Singapore Management University wrote in an opinion piece, adding they are "clearly backfiring".

The opposition was thrown into panic when a government agency on Wednesday refused to recognise the leadership of one of its parties, sowing confusion over whether the party could contest the polls.

After an outcry, the agency reversed its position on Friday but the opposition called it a bid to sow chaos in their campaign.

"If they are prepared to go to this extent, I don't believe they will stop at this," said Anwar, who warned of a "tough tumble" for the opposition in the campaign.
Previous elections have been marred by charges of ruling-coalition fraud and vote-buying, and activists warn these polls will be no different.

Najib's government insists the vote will be fair, and top officials vow election violence and other violations will be punished.

In Muslim prayer services on Friday, a sermon approved by a national Islamic body decried unscrupulous campaign methods.

"Imagine what will happen to Islam and our beloved country if the practice of slander and cursing others becomes the main medium for campaigning?" it said.
UMNO has developed multi-ethnic Malaysia into a regional economic success under a formula that ensures political supremacy for majority Muslim Malays.

But its grip has slipped recently amid anger over corruption, rising living costs and crime, and UMNO's use of divisive tactics.

Najib signed an "electoral integrity" pledge sponsored by Transparency International in February, but the group last week accused the government of breaking it by abusing government resources to promote the ruling coalition.

(Source: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/sex-sabotage-videotape-malaysian-campaign-100005808.html)


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