Najib set to unveil Budget on Oct 27

Later-than-expected date means Malaysian election unlikely to be held this year

PUTRAJAYA • Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday the 2018 Budget will be tabled on Oct 27, amid ongoing speculation over a date for the country's next general election.

There were expectations earlier in the year that the Budget, with a long list of goodies rolled out for voters, would be presented in early October, leading to polls late that month or in early November.

But with the Budget expected to be unveiled at the end of October, the window to hold polls would be very narrow, as the rainy season that often triggers floods in east coast states usually starts in November.

In recent times, the campaigning period has been set at between eight and 12 days.

Datuk Seri Najib revealed the date for the Budget presentation, which he will make in his role as Finance Minister, during a Budget consultation dialogue yesterday.

Malaysia's Nanyang Siang Pau newspaper reported last week that several sources close to leaders of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition said chances of an election being called this year are slim. BN, they said, wants to first ensure some mega projects that have been announced are ready to take off.

"By being cautious, Barisan can ensure it continues to remain in Putrajaya in the next election," the paper quoted one source as saying.

Analysts had pointed to the period from September to early November as a possible election window. They had ruled out this month, next month and August.

The Muslim fasting month will end this month, and will be followed by several weeks of Hari Raya Puasa celebrations.

August has big events lined up that preclude holding the election.

More than 22,000 Muslims will head to Mecca for the haj, starting from early August, and will return only in early September. Muslim-majority Malaysia has never held a general election during the haj season as a mark of respect for pilgrims and their families.

The final two weeks of August will see Kuala Lumpur hosting the SEA Games.

And come Aug 31, Malaysia will celebrate its 60th national day, with huge fireworks planned.

"We celebrate our 60th Merdeka Day one day after the closing of the SEA Games," said Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin on Wednesday.

"Hopefully, on Aug 30, I can announce we've won overall champions. And then the next day - 60 years of Merdeka (independence). The feel-good factor. Then, you know, it's up to the Prime Minister," he told Channel NewsAsia in an interview.

Some now expect Mr Najib to call the polls early next year, as the BN government's five-year mandate ends on June 22 next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'Najib set to unveil Budget on Oct 27'. Print Edition | Subscribe