Prime Minister Najib Razak said winning a clear majority in Malaysia’s upcoming general election will be “challenging” and a hung parliament could be detrimental for the Southeast Asian nation.
“We don’t want a hung parliament or something that could spell uncertainty for Malaysia,” Najib told reporters in Kuala Lumpur late yesterday. “That is the worst possible outcome you could have. What’s important is to have a stable and reasonably strong government.”
Najib declined to say when elections might be. He hinted in December that he would call an early election when he said preparations had begun for a vote after unveiling a budget in October that gave cash payments to low-income families. The country will soon announce plans for a minimum wage, Najib said at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia yesterday.
Malaysia’s government is discussing the possibility of an early election in May or June, ahead of the due date by early 2013, according to four officials who spoke on condition of anonymity last week because the talks are private. Najib’s National Front coalition is seeking to extend its 55 years in power and improve on its showing in 2008, when it won elections by the narrowest margin since independence in 1957.
“All signs point to an impending general election, probably in May or June, after this current parliamentary sitting,” Ong Kian Ming, a political analyst at UCSI University in Kuala Lumpur, said in an e-mail. “There is no better time for Najib to call the general election in order to maximize his chances of winning back the two-thirds majority.”
Satisfaction with his leadership rose to 69 percent last month from 59 percent in August, according to a poll by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research.
Malaysia’s benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index (KLCI) was 0.3 percent higher at 10:46 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur trading today, having gained 3.1 percent this year.
In the 2008 elections, the opposition alliance, led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, secured enough seats to deny the coalition a two-thirds majority, which the National Front had held for more than four decades. The opposition won five of 13 states, though it has since lost one after several lawmakers defected to become independents.
“In the today’s modern democracy, most prime ministers would be over the moon if he or she were to get an accountable simple majority,” said Najib. “If I were to ask David Cameron when he comes to visit Malaysia next month, I’m sure he’d say I’d be delighted if I can get an overall majority for the Conservatives. Realistically, in the Malaysian context it’s becoming more and more challenging to get the two thirds. It’s also equally challenging in the context of Singapore.”
The opposition currently holds 76 parliamentary seats out of the 222 seats, while nine are independent lawmakers and 137 constituencies are held by the National Front, according to the Malaysian parliament website.
Gross domestic product may expand 5 percent to 6 percent this year, Najib said in the annual budget speech on Oct. 7. The economy expanded by 5.1 percent last year, the government said Feb. 15. Civil servant salaries will increase by as much as 13 percent, the prime minister said March 8.
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