General elections took place in Malaysia on the 5th of May. The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition won a majority of the seats, while the coalition of opposition parties, Pakatan Rakyat (PR), increased its political representation a little. The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition is made up of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party and several smaller parties. The coalition has been the nation’s federal ruling political party since the country’s independence from the British Empire on 31 August 1957.
Barisan Nasional fared miserably during the 2008 general elections, losing many seats to the opposition. As a result, the Prime Minster of the time, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, resigned from his post as the leader of the UMNO party, giving way to a leadership election. The then Deputy Prime Minister and Prime-Minister designate, Najib Tun Rajak, was elected unopposed in the election as the new UMNO party leader.
Barisan Nasional party manifesto
The Barisan Nasional party, amongst many policy points, emphasised,
- increasing the competitiveness of national cars,
- the introduction of 1Malaysia products in petrol stations and hypermarkets,
- increasing the numbers of Kedai Rakat 1Malaysia, a shop operating similar to a mini market which aims to help citizens on low incomes by providing them with a range of basic amenities at low prices,
- building 1,000,000 affordable housing properties, including 500,000 PR1MA houses, the Malaysian Housing Programme for middle-income earners,
- attracting RM1.3 trillion of investments,
- providing special incentives for innovative and creative ventures,
- providing RM500 million in seed funds to boost equity of the Indian community to at least 3 percent,
- improving access to quality education for rural and ethnic minority communities,
- promoting gender equality,
- producing more high performance athletes and promoting a healthy lifestyle,
- upholding Islam as the religion of the Federation,
- ensuring other religions can be practised in peace and harmony,
- continuing to allocate land for building places of worship,
- providing more financial assistance to religious institutions and places of worship,
- increasing initiatives in uniting the ummah (which stands for nation or community),
- supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state,
- enhancing economic and bilateral interests with major trading partners,
- supplying financial incentives to ventures which invest in renewable energy,
- increasing allocations and enacting stricter laws to preserve rivers, forests and strategic conservation areas.
The PR manifesto on the other hand, highlighted,
- respecting the position of Islam as the official religion, while guaranteeing the freedom of other religions,
- raising the royalty payments for oil and gas producing states to 20 percent,
- introducing a minimum wage scheme of RM1,1o0 per month,
- providing investment incentives for successfully commercialised Malaysian R & D products,
- increasing welfare assistance from RM300 a month to RM500 a month.
Although there has been a drop in support for the Barisan Nasional in general, particularly amongst the nation’s largest ethnic minority of Chinese voters, Najib Razak continues to enjoy considerable popularity as a political figure. Several former advisers of the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, work for Najib Razak to realise his visions of a much more politically reformed and modernised nation.
As the prime minister, Najib Rajak enlarged the Prime Minister’s budget and introduced the 1Malaysia slogan, which aims to encourage cooperation amongst Malaysians of different ethnicities and act unitedly in the national interest. Furthermore, he invested heavily in pursuing his party’s core supporters during the general elections campaign, from the ethnic-Malays to Muslim voters, and also supported people from poor households during his Prime Ministerial tenure, by supplying them with cash handouts.
Meanwhile, the opposition has been credited with attracting substantial investments for two of the states they electorally control, Penang and Selangor, and 2011 saw a total of RM17.8bn invested in the manufacturing sector, which is slightly more than the 30 percent national share. In addition, PR has promised to increase royalty payments from petroleum from the national oil company, Petronas, to the petroleum-producing states of Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak, despite not winning an overall majority in the general elections.