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Malaysia's opposition tempts voters with promises of handouts, matchmaking

Malaysia's opposition tempts voters with promises of handouts, matchmaking

Malaysia's struggling opposition sought to attract voters Tuesday by pledging to eliminate corruption, provide handouts to poor families and even help unmarried women find husbands if it wins March 8 general elections.
Opposition parties acknowledge they have little hope of defeating Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's National Front coalition, but their electoral pledges underscore their allegation that Abdullah presides over a graft-plagued government that neglects ordinary people.
The Democratic Action Party announced an election platform titled "Just Change It," promising to ensure that government contracts are awarded fairly and to give 6,000 ringgit (US$1,860; euro1,260) a year to cash-strapped households if the opposition wins power.
"To many Malaysians, this election is the last hope for change," said party chairman Lim Kit Siang. "It will be the clincher in ... whether there is hope to build a democratic, just and competitive Malaysia."
Lim's group has made a pact with the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, better known as PAS, and the People's Justice Party to field only one candidate in each constituency to avoid splitting the opposition vote.
PAS pledged Tuesday to build more low-cost homes and help villagers set up small businesses if it retains control of northeastern Kelantan state, the only one of Malaysia's 13 states not ruled by the National Front.
The party's election platform for Kelantan also vowed to "overcome the issue of women who marry late" by promoting matchmaking facilities and encouraging a lower dowry, but gave no details. It also plans to boost maternity leave from 60 days to three months.
The People's Justice Party, led by prominent politician Anwar Ibrahim, announced a platform that could entice ethnic minorities by promising to dismantle a decades-old affirmative action policy that benefits the Malay Muslim majority.
"Affirmative action based purely on race ... has been shown to be too vulnerable to abuse," the manifesto said. "It is pointless and divisive to insist that each racial group has its own economic solution."
Prime Minister Abdullah insisted Monday the opposition is making "empty promises" to voters. His coalition's own platform promises to create 2 million new jobs in five years and slash the percentage of people living in poverty from 3.5 percent to 2.8 percent by 2010.
The National Front won 199 of 219 parliamentary seats in 2004 polls. It has acknowledged it will likely win fewer seats this time amid complaints over rising inflation, crime and racial and religious tensions.


Updated : 2021-02-28 14:03 GMT+08:00