BN MPs each get RM1.5m boost, likely post-Budget polls
KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 — Federal lawmakers from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) are to receive an added RM1.5 million each to plough into their constituencies this year as the Najib administration looks ahead to polls after the September 28 budget announcement.
The Malaysian Insider learnt the allocation was announced at yesterday’s BN pre-council meeting for the current parliamentary sitting but Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was guarded about potential dates for a general election that must be held by mid-2013.
Sources said that it would take up to three months for the projects to be identified and carried out, and further announcements in Budget 2013, including an expected second round of cash handouts under the Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BR1M) scheme, would also take time to be executed.
Although BN MPs refused to go on the record on the amount allocated, several said that the funds “would be available upon request.”
“We have to request it for specific projects,” said Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof.
Former Cabinet minister Tan Sri Shahrir Samad also said that the prime minister was “cool and guarded” at the pre-council meeting.
“Well, if there was no allocation, then polls would happen very soon,” he said, when asked how the funds might affect the timing of an election in which Najib would lead BN’s campaign for the first time.
Although the BN chairman and Umno president was earlier speculated to dissolve Parliament this month for a July election, he announced that he would be tabling next year’s budget on September 28 and that there was a possibility of another handout to low-income families under BR1M.
The RM500 paid out to nearly five million families at a cost of RM2.6 billion earlier this year saw his approval ratings shoot up to 69 per cent, largely due to a surge among poorer households.
But the aftermath of violence that erupted between police and demonstrators at the April 28 Bersih rally for free and fair elections saw his popularity slide to 65 per cent last month.
The Malaysian Insider had reported on May 28 of a possible September general election but Najib’s announcement that Budget 2013 will be tabled on September 28 has pushed party strategists to look at a further date to also ensure budget goodies get to the ground.
The haj pilgrimage on October 26, Deepavali on November 13 and BN’s efforts to court the youth and Chinese vote could delay the general election to November, sources say, adding that the BN chief was still scrutinising the candidates’ lists to ensure a bigger victory.
BN sources say several recent surveys show the coalition needs to work harder to get a convincing victory especially with some 2.2 million voters casting ballots for the first time.
It is understood the compilation of surveys revealed that BN could win up to 146 parliamentary seats with at least 80 sure wins, more than the 140 won in Election 2008. However, a recent survey by the Special Branch said BN could only win up to 118 federal seats, prompting strategists to seek a delay in the polls.
Najib took over from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in April 2009, ostensibly to improve on BN’s worst electoral performance ever in March 2008, where it lost its customary two-thirds supermajority in Parliament and five state governments.