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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Influence of Dr M, 1MDB scandal not enough to rock BN, say analysts

Rashaad Ali, a research analyst at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ (RSIS) Malaysia programme
PETALING JAYA: Pundits of the Malaysian political scene based across the causeway are pessimistic about Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) ability to successfully take advantage of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s presence in the coalition to wrest Putrajaya in the 14th general election (GE14).
Those interviewed by Singapore’s Today Online in a report yesterday said the influence of Mahathir, 92, and the opposition’s trumpeting of issues like the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal would not be enough to rock the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government.
Rashaad Ali, a research analyst at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ (RSIS) Malaysia programme, said there remained a big question on whether the overall split in the Malay vote between PH and BN, and the opposition’s messaging to end Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration would be enough to topple BN.
“My sense is that the opposition has not been able to take the opportunity to present themselves as a credible and worthy alternative to the Malaysian people,” he was quoted as saying.
“On the other hand, Umno-BN and Najib have consolidated their position,” he added.
“That’s why I believe a straightforward BN victory will be enough to constitute a success.
“Umno has endured what is arguably the worst period in their history, and a victory in the next election would be a hammer blow to the credentials of the opposition.”
Rashaad also said the move to make Mahathir, who was prime minister and Umno president for 22 years till 2002, the chairman of PH this year could easily drive voters to BN.
“Dr Mahathir’s position only reinforces the messaging from his detractors. He makes himself an easy target for BN and Umno supporters by opting to lead those he denigrated only a few elections ago,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mustafa Izzuddin, a fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, was quoted as saying that the Mahathir factor was a “double-edged sword” for PH.
“On one hand, his stature and eloquence could well win more support for PH, especially among the Malays but on the other hand, his presence could put off the Chinese in particular those who may not come out to vote, and this could make a difference in marginal seats controlled by PH,” he said.
“In other words, the over-emphasis on the Malay vote by PH could result in an erosion of support from the Chinese for PH.”
Serina Abdul Rahman, a visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute said the problems of 1MDB would not make much impact among voters.
She said the scandal was beyond most people she had met during her recent field work in Kedah and Johor.
“Their biggest concern is daily survival (due to) increased cost of living,” she was quoted as saying.
“While some are aware of the scandal, only a few said that this affected them, and only a handful said it would make them vote the other way,” she added.
“Some went so far as to say that this was all fake news. Others simply said they didn’t understand it and didn’t care.” -FMT

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