For Pakatan, ‘100 day’ reforms weapon to counter Najib’s popularity

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal, The Malaysian Insider

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is hoping to counter Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s high approval ratings by touting the merits of its “100 day” reform agenda which promise more money for civil servants and repealing repressive laws.

They also intend to utilise the successes of two PR states, Penang and Selangor, as fodder for the counter-offensive campaign against the prime minister’s approval ratings which stood at 69 per cent this month among voters in peninsular Malaysia, slipping slightly from 72 per cent in May. 

The Merdeka Centre poll showed that 74 per cent of Malays, 54 per cent of Chinese and 85 per cent of Indians were satisfied with the prime minister’s performance, in a major boost for Najib as he mulls the possibility of snap polls. 

“It is important for us to be able to demonstrate to voters that we are able to function as an effective coalition. The only way to do that is for the voters to see substance in our policies,” said DAP National Publicity Secretary Tony Pua, citing the need to highlight successes in Penang and Selangor as an example. 

Pua told The Malaysian Insider that Najib’s high ratings as an individual could be “challenged” if PR could convince voters that it could deliver results as a cohesive unit, and just through the actions of a single individual. 

“We need to push our reform policies inked out during last week’s convention, and we need to back it up with our successes in the state administration. Penang is doing well, it’s getting investments, corruption-free, people are getting bonuses, its these sort of ideas that need to be carried across the board. 

“We also have to continue to chip at the programmes that are being implemented by BN — we have to show voters that Najib’s programmes are not really that different from the BN of the past,” he added, referring to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. 

PR’s policy framework, titled the “Pakatan agenda”, is seen as an answer and solution to questions surrounding the opposition’s administrative plans in comparison to BN. 

Speculation is rife that a general election will be held as early as next year although BN’s mandate does not expire until May 2013 

Among the instant reforms promised by the PR coalition, within the first 100 days of taking over Putrajaya, is acknowledging the role and sacrifices of civil servants by studying the current pay schemes and increasing the incentives for teachers by RM500 a month. 

PR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has claimed that a PR federal government could afford to pay for a proposed allowance for teachers — projected to be RM3.2 billion annually — by eliminating the “wastages” of the BN administration. 

Other “instant” reforms include the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA), abolishing the toll system by instructing Khazanah Berhad, Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and other government bodies to take over highway assets from the concessionaires, as well as offering free wireless Internet access to those in urban and semi-urban areas. 

“We have already shown that we can govern better than BN on a state level. We just need to make voters aware of the changes that we can bring on a federal level. When PR takes over federal power, there will be differences in terms of financial management of federal funds and the governance of all states,” said DAP Youth Chief (Dapsy) Anthony Loke. 

Loke claimed that the most effective way to counter Najib’s popularity was to work with “tangible issues.” 

“We have to work with tangle issues, what people are looking forward to. ISA, reform of legislative laws is important but people want change to issues which affect them on a daily basis. 

“For urban folks, the political will to restructure the toll system is the best way to go. If we can reduce the toll rate, we can eventually abolish the toll system. That way, we will be able to increase people’s disposable income, and this will sway votes our way,” Loke told The Malaysian Insider. 

PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar said that Najib’s new ratings did not take into account the effect of the “Pakatan Agenda”, saying that if the survey put that into the mix, Najib would not be “so popular.”