Opposition's pledges target BN vote bank

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's opposition parties last month unveiled "people-centric" election pledges aimed at drawing support from voters who have long sided with ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN).

Pakatan Harapan (PH) targeted two solid blocs of BN voters - Felda settlers, and voters in Sabah and Sarawak.

Rural Malay farmers have the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) to thank for their homes, plantations and income. They and their families, totalling about 1.2 million voters, have returned BN to power in almost all of the 54 parliamentary wards - nearly a quarter of the entire legislature - where Felda is present. In recent years, however, poor management at the 60-year-old agency has led farmers to bear mounting debts, and PH has pledged to write these off.

In Sabah and Sarawak, known as the "fixed deposit" states for BN, PH has promised to look into the Malaysia Agreement 1963, with a view to granting the states more autonomy from federal government.

In its manifesto, dubbed the "Book of Hope", PH vowed to improve living standards, stimulate economic growth and reform institutions.

It also wants to limit to two terms the tenure for prime ministers, menteris besar and chief ministers, to curb possible corruption and power abuses.

Both PH and another opposition alliance, Gagasan Sejahtera (GS), led by Parti Islam SeMalaysia, also promised to remove the unpopular 6 per cent goods and services tax. In its manifesto, GS focused on young voters - who make up 48 per cent of the electorate - by offering to write off their study loans and give out interest-free loans to first-time car buyers.

Nadirah H. Rodzi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 08, 2018, with the headline 'Opposition's pledges target BN vote bank'. Print Edition | Subscribe