Agence France Presse
Published — Sunday 7 April 2013
Last update 7 April 2013 3:22 am
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Premier Najib Razak unveiled a manifesto yesterday pledging bigger cash handouts, millions of new jobs and lower taxes and crime, as he seeks his first mandate in looming national polls.
Speaking to tens of thousands in a packed stadium just outside the capital, he talked up Malaysia’s economic prosperity over his four years in power, promising to do better should he win an election expected late April convincingly. “We have fulfilled the hopes of the people. If that was our performance over just four years, imagine what we can achieve in the next five years if we have a strong mandate,” he said in a speech telecast live on national television.
Najib, who dissolved parliament Wednesday, has previously said he is “cautiously optimistic” of a “big” win as his United Malays National Organization (UMNO) faces what is seen as the toughest challenge to its 56 years in power.
The vote is tipped to be the closest ever, driven by concerns over corruption, the rising cost of living and high crime under an UMNO-dominated coalition which has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957.
Najib has worked hard to rebrand the 13-member Barisan Nasional, or National Front, since taking over the coalition in 2009 by launching a series of reforms to strengthen the economy and grant greater civil liberties.
He has reversed a recession despite global economic instability with Malaysia recording a 5.6 percent growth last year while keeping inflation and unemployment at 1.6 and 3.3 percent respectively.