Commentary

Najib faces tug-of-war between 2 Malaysias

Najib faces tug-of-war between 2 Malaysias
Mr Najib and the BN may have won the polls, but the rural-urban and class divisions will make any reconciliation and necessary reforms even more difficult to implement. PHOTO: REUTERS
Published: 6:08 AM, May 7, 2013
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As a fragmented Malaysia emerged early Monday morning in the wake of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) slim victory in General Election 2013, Datuk Seri Najib Razak identified the biggest challenge he faces — national reconciliation in a country divided.

But an analysis of how the vote went shows a country with rural-urban and class divisions that will make any reconciliation and necessary reforms even more difficult to implement.

The need to continue dismantling the Bumiputera policies and to introduce the controversial bitter pill of a Goods and Services Tax (GST) — steps necessary to make Malaysia more competitive and lift it out of a middle-income trap — appears to be even more daunting because of the conflicting tug-of-war between the two Malaysias that have emerged.

Mr Najib is now faced with a public seemingly addicted to easy money and handouts, and in winning GE13 he may have committed his government to a continuation of such policies.

Corruption also remains a major challenge for Mr Najib, with the BN’s loss of the popular vote presenting him with a tricky path to negotiate.

Initial analysis of the election results shows the BN had won the polls on the back of votes from a largely conservative rural Malaysia, as well as UMNO voters with an interest in the continuation of affirmative action policies that critics say benefit an elite associated with the party.

But Pakatan Rakyat (PR) appears to have won the consolation prize of a popular vote, secured on its campaign to push the message that graft and the government’s tendency to award lucrative contracts to UMNO interests were squeezing out the middle class and the Malay working class.

FROM ETHNICITY TO CLASS?

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