KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 ― Bank Islam Malaysia’s chief economist has ruffled feathers in Putrajaya and among Umno members for predicting a Pakatan Rakyat (PR) win in Election 2013, say sources.
The Malaysian Insiderunderstands that leaders from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government are concerned over Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin’s calculations, which show PR winning the polls by a hair’s breadth.
It is learnt that the bank’s management are meeting today over the findings that were part of the banker’s presentation at the Regional Outlook Forum in Singapore yesterday.
Bank Islam’s main shareholder is the Muslim pilgrims fund board Lembaga Tabung Haji, which is managed by the government.
Umno MP Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, however, pooh-poohed Azrul Azwar’s prediction, calling it “ridiculous” speculation that was merely made to create false hopes for the federal opposition pact.
The Sabah BN secretary added that the banker’s reading was likely biased as the latter is known to be a member of PKR’s Putrajaya division.
“I admire his enthusiasm but I think he should plant his feet firmly on the ground,” Abdul Rahman said.
In a report by Singapore’s The Straits Times (ST) today, 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.
Abdul Rahman noted, however, that the report had not cited Azrul Anwar’s reasons and methodology for arriving at such a prediction.
“I don’t know where he got his figures from,” he said.
He also pointed to BN’s winning streak in the last eight by-elections and insisted that this was likely to continue on to the 13th general election.
“So we are comfortable with our own readings... we believe we will retain power over the federal government, and not only that, we will increase our majority,” said the outspoken lawmaker.
In his prediction, Azrul had also 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, including a second round of RM500 cash handouts to lower income families and 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.
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 groups that were 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.