04/10/2013, 00.00
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“Nebulous” scenario ahead of Malaysian vote as nationalism outweighs economy

Fr. Andrew Lawrence SJ points out that for the first time it is "very difficult" to predict the outcome of the polls. Ruling party’s hegemony at risk, resulting in promotion of populist policies to regain consensus. Christian vote, attentive to the fight against corruption, justice and freedom. Elections on 5 May and hopes for a "Malaysian Spring".

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - With only a few weeks to elections, scheduled for May 5, the scenario in Malaysia is bleak", with the media - firmly in the hands of the executive - praising the outgoing government and the policies of the Prime Minister Najib Razak (National Front, Bn). It is "very difficult" to predict the outcome of the elections,  but there are hopes the polls will lead to a true "Malaysian Spring". This is according to Andrew Lawrence SJ., editor of the Catholic Herald Malaysia.  Speaking to AsiaNews  the priest says issues related to nationalist propaganda will outweigh issues surrounding the economy and the country's development.

On 3 April, the Prime Minister ordered the dissolution of parliament, paving the way for elections (13th ballot in the modern history), the Election Commission today ruled that the vote will be held on 5 May, with the beginning the election campaign scheduled for April 20. A session that promises to be uncertain and that, for the first time in 55 years, could see the end of the hegemony of the Barisan National (Bn).

The favorite remains the outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak, who promises to fight corruption, reduce the cost of living and realize massive investments in infrastructure, including a high-speed link that will cross Borneo to reach Singapore. Recently, the government has also approved the distribution of support funds and subsidies to the poor, along with the increase of salaries for civil servants, the police and the military.

For critics these are all populist policies, to maintain control of the electorate and appease the opposition. The attempt at dialogue with the leaders of the Christian minority, which counts for 10% of the total population, also falls into this context: the attempts to archive past conflicts including the use of the word "Allah" to also define the Christian God. The main opponent of the outgoing government will be Ibhraim Anwar, who has finally overcome his problems with the law.

Stressing the attention of the Christian electorate, following the advice of the Catholic and Protestant leaders, Fr. Andrew Lawrence SJ confirmed to AsiaNews that the political picture is still somewhat "nebulous". It is difficult to predict the outcome of the polls, said the priest, even if the ruling party "has put together all its resources and is positioned to win" and much will depend on the results that will emerge in the various constituencies. The government may be able to retain power "even with a minimal advantage," he adds, but if this does not happen, and the result is different, we might perhaps "witness a true Malaysian Spring".

Fr. Lawrence is convinced that economic issues " cannot be an important issue " in the election campaign, where prevailing issues are instead related to "the conservation of the Malay race" used by the government as a means to attract the support of the masses. And it is also for this reason, he adds, that have begun to donate " more cash aid to the people. It is a form of bribery!," accuses the priest, with a view buying votes that cannot benefit the nation. With regard to the vote of the Christian minority, Fr. Lawrence ensures that bishops and other Christian leaders have launched an awareness campaign, sending the faithful "pastoral letters calling on them to make a wise, just and ethical choice." Fighting corruption and promoting good values ​​, he concludes, are fundamental elements such as "justice and freedom" for all citizens. (DS)


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