Na­jib cools snap elec­tion talk as Malaysia lacks ‘feel good fac­tor’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak said yes­ter­day that he will “not nec­es­sar­ily” call a snap elec­tion next year, amid talk that he would seek an early vote as splits in the op­po­si­tion have hob­bled ef­forts to oust him over a long-run­ning fi­nan­cial scan­dal. The multi-eth­nic South­east Asian coun­try is due to hold an elec­tion by Au­gust 2018, and a govern­ment of­fi­cial has told Reuters that Na­jib could call for a poll in the sec­ond half of 2017.

But in an in­ter­view pub­lished in The Star daily yes­ter­day, Na­jib, who has led the coun­try since 2009, sug­gested he was in no hurry to call for a vote, and re­marked on the cur­rent lack of a “feel good fac­tor” among Malaysians. “Not nec­es­sar­ily... it can be later,” Na­jib replied when asked whether an elec­tion could be called some­time next year. “With to­day’s eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion, it’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge be­cause you don’t see the world econ­omy on a ris­ing trend. It’s go­ing to be much more the same next year, as the year be­fore,” Na­jib said.

Na­jib has been bat­tling calls to step down over a scan­dal in­volv­ing state fund 1Malaysia De­vel­op­ment Ber­had (1MDB). The US Jus­tice De­part­ment filed law­suits in July al­leg­ing mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of over $3.5 bil­lion from the fund and that some of those flowed into the ac­counts of “Malaysian Of­fi­cial 1”, whom US and Malaysian of­fi­cials have iden­ti­fied as Na­jib. Na­jib has de­nied wrong­do­ing and has con­sol­i­dated power by sack­ing crit­ics within his rul­ing party and crack­ing down on dis­sent. His fiercest critic is for­mer premier Ma­hathir Mo­hamad, who is over 90 years old. Ma­hathir joined hands with Na­jib’s sacked for­mer deputy Muhyid­din Yassin to form a new party. But the main Is­lamist party’s fail­ure to join ef­forts by other op­po­si­tion par­ties cam­paign­ing against Na­jib, has made it hard for them to whip up more sup­port among eth­nic Malays.

An­war Ibrahim, the most charis­matic op­po­si­tion leader, is serv­ing a five-year sen­tence on sodomy charges that sup­port­ers and many ob­servers be­lieve were po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Look­ing ahead, Na­jib said he ex­pected some re­cov­ery in oil and gas rev­enues to help the na­tional mood. “Af­ter that I think that the price of oil will likely be at a slightly higher level, not at the all time high, but some­thing be­tween $60 to $70 per bar­rel, will be a com­fort­able level for us,” he said.

The Malaysian econ­omy has been hit hard by the slide in oil prices. A re­cent slump in the ring­git cur­rency to a near 14month low has also raised con­cerns. In the in­ter­view with The Star, Na­jib also said a free trade deal for the Asia Pa­cific re­gion was im­por­tant to cre­ate jobs, in­vest­ment and wealth.

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