In Malaysia election, economy is priority for voters tired of instability

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Malaysian pet trader Zamri Haron lost 400,000 ringgit ($87,241.00) in a typhoon and flood last December that damaged his equipment and destroyed his stock.

He received no government support, and was forced to borrow money from friends and family to pay his employees and run the business.

While casting his vote in the national election on Saturday, Zamri said he will vote for a candidate who can help tackle the economic crisis and economic decline.

We ourselves, as businessmen, do not see the government helping or giving (aid) what we expect from the person who will lead the region and be honest and help the people,” said Zamri.

Economic prospects and rising inflation are key issues for Malaysians in the Nov. 19 which comes amid a decline in growth.

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Malaysians are also frustrated by the political instability which they feel has taken away political interest from economic development.

Since 2018, Malaysia has seen three prime ministers and the collapse of two coalitions due to inter-party conflicts.

The election is expected to be a highly competitive contest between the three main coalitions led by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, long-time opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Ismail’s Barisan Nasional coalition, which was defeated in the last election in 2018 due to widespread corruption, is trying to regain its image as the safest hand in managing the economy.

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Former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who owns Barisan, is serving a 12-year prison sentence for lying in the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal. Several other union leaders are also accused of corruption.

Anwar and Muhyiddin worked together to oust Najib in 2018, forming a coalition government led by the late Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s oldest prime minister, who is running again at the age of 97.

Barisan has pledged to provide monthly assistance to low-income families, free childcare and early childhood education, as well as tax cuts to address voter concerns.

Opposition leader Anwar also vowed to prioritize the economy and inflation. His union said it would provide incentives for the creation and elimination of cartels to reduce the rise in prices of essential foods.

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About 74% of Malaysians polled by the independent Merdeka Center identified the ‘economic crisis’ as the country’s biggest problem.

Rising prices and boosting economic growth were among the top five problems for voters, according to a Merdeka survey conducted in October.

“Living costs will be the focus of the new government,” said Arinah Najwa Ahmad Said, political analyst at Bower Group Asia.

The new government will also have to deal with unemployment benefits as companies lay off jobs in anticipation of tough times ahead, he said.

($1 = 4.5850 ringgit)

By A. Ananthalakshmi; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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