In tea leaves, economist sees slender Pakatan win

PR will secure enough votes to form the next government, according to a forecast by Bank Islam’s chief economist. — File picPR will secure enough votes to form the next government, according to a forecast by Bank Islam’s chief economist. — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) will notch a slim victory over the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in Election 2013, according to calculations by Bank Islam Malaysia’s chief economist Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin.

In a report by The Straits Times of Singapore, Azrul’s computations found that BN was likely to win only between 97 and 107 of the 222 parliamentary seats — insufficient to reform the next administration.

But the result would also mean that PR will only gain a shaky hold over Parliament and far from the supermajority once enjoyed by its rival.

The outcome was considered the most probable during the banker’s presentation at the Regional Outlook Forum in Singapore yesterday, and took into account factors such as race and demographics.

Later, Azrul forecast that fallout would result from the PR win, with the stock market set to respond in “knee-jerk” fashion as well as an extended period of perceived instability.

He also did not rule out the possibility of “economic sabotage” by businesses and the civil service that are aligned with BN.

The ruling BN government has ramped up efforts to secure a victory against its most organised opposition in the general election that must be called by April 27.

In Budget 2013, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced a smorgasbord of handouts and benefits in an effort to court electoral support ahead of polls.

These include a second round of RM500 cash handouts to lower income families, dubbed “BR1M 2.0”, as well as an expansion of the programme to include payments of RM250 to single youths earning below RM3,000 monthly.

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin suggested that the payments may be made permanent and even doubled to RM1,000 with a BN victory.

Other aid measures include RM500 book vouchers and a new RM250 smartphone rebate for students.

Najib’s approval rating slid to 63 per cent in November, according to a Merdeka Center poll released yesterday, with nods for his administration and BN trailing further behind at 47 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.

The previous round of BR1M handouts was shown to have boosted support for Najib, especially in the lower income group that was the main recipients.

But an opposition-backed mega-rally called “Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat” planned for tomorrow risks throwing a wrench into BN’s works, just as the April 28, 2012 Bersih rally was said to have derailed Najib’s plans for a snap election then.

Najib has the option to call Election 2013 anytime before April 27, after which Parliament will be dissolved and polls automatically put into action.


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