PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) is set to offer its most "targeted" election manifesto yet for the coming general election.
For the first time, youths who make up nearly half of the country's 14.9 million voters will have a dedicated chapter in the national manifesto addressing their needs.
It is understood that women - an equally important group that comprises 50.5 per cent of Malaysia's voters - will also get a special chapter in the manifesto that BN will unveil on April 7 at Stadium Bukit Jalil.
According to sources, the manifesto will contain chapters dedicated to specific issues and which will address the needs of every segment of the society and age group.
Another chapter of the manifesto will address the issue of people's economy.
The aim is to elevate their income status and cushion the impact of the rising cost of living.
To ensure the security and sovereignty of Malaysia is not jeopardised, a chapter spelling out plans to enhance the police and military will also be included this time.
Aside from a national manifesto, the ruling coalition will also release a special manifesto for each state, similar to what it did in the run-up to the last election in 2013.
Sources said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, in drawing up the manifesto, wanted the people to benefit from "development with soul", meaning that it has to come with a positive social impact and is good for nation-building.
Mr Najib had announced the special chapter for youths in the Barisan manifesto at a recent function with university students.
He had said that the chapter on youth will spell out programmes and policies tailored to meet their aspirations and prepare them to face future challenges.
Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said Barisan's manifesto would be realistic and deliverable.
She said the manifesto would look at the new environment and issues faced by women today.
"What we will do is offer solutions and answers to the challenges. Rest assured the interests of women will be looked after by Barisan," Shahrizat told The Star.
Assoc Prof Dr Jeniri Amir from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said Barisan's general election manifesto needed to be truly special in order to appeal to an increasingly demanding electorate.
"Voters nowadays are better educated and more aware of issues due to social media. To get their support, Barisan needs a manifesto that can fire up their imagination and get them excited.
"It is a challenge, and it will mean the manifesto must be relevant but also achievable," said Dr Jeniri.
He said some issues such as the cost of living and access to affordable housing affect many Malaysians in all states.
Others are, however, specific to certain states, for example, both Sabah and Sarawak's bid to negotiate for greater autonomous control and rights from the Federal Government.
An election manifesto that targets specific groups is, therefore, a good strategy to meet their different needs and aspirations, he said.
With the country's general election increasingly competitive between BN and the opposition, a "one-size-fits-all" manifesto no longer works, said Ibrahim Suffian, founder of the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.
"By having a targeted approach that focuses on certain segments of voters, it also means that Barisan is trying to squeeze the maximum amount of support from each segment of society identified in the manifesto," said Ibrahim.