KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 2): The next six- to eight months would be a testing ground for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government, as Malaysia waits for the new Budget 2023 which is expected to be tabled within two months, and the six state elections in 2023, according to political analysts.
University of Nottingham Malaysia’s Asia Research Institute Associate Professor Bridget Welsh said the national budget previously tabled on Oct 7 under former prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration has to be amended because it is a new opportunity to brand Anwar’s government.
She said Anwar's newly-minted government formed after the 15th general election (GE15) needs to focus on three main areas when amending Budget 2023, which are the discussion of revenue resources, rebranding of social safety nets and realistic project spending.
Pakatan Harapan (PH) leader Anwar managed to form the government with Barisan Nasional (BN), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), Parti Warisan Sabah, Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (KDM) and two independent candidates.
The coalition government of PH and BN forms a simple majority (112 parliamentary seats out of 222 seats), and the addition of other coalitions helped stabilise it to a two-thirds majority.
“BN and PH do have common ground; in many policies, there were lots of very interesting conversation on issues of social safety net, (and) goods and services tax (GST); (there is) a lot of potential space to cooperate,” Bridget said.
She was speaking in a webinar hosted by the KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific, entitled “Post-GE15 Analysis: Implications for Malaysian Politics” on Friday (Dec 2).
“The stability of this government will be determined on how it manages the economy, and how it will deliver on certain things; if there can be a common platform on certain sets of policy areas, you are going to see tractions of where the (political) elites should focus on,” Welsh said.
“On the positive side, there are low expectations (on the deliverables); people recognise difficulties that are happening, so the space for some concrete deliverables are there.”
Oh Ei Sun, Senior Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and Principal Adviser at Pacific Research Center of Malaysia, said there might be more popular demand for a distributive social economy, with projections of the economy to perform worse in 2023.
“A more distributive economy would sound more appealing to the people. Then, there would be groundswell of support for that government,” said Oh, who was also a guest in the webinar.
“I cannot make far-reaching predictions (on how long Anwar’s government would last), but Anwar needs to roll out the budget and social economic policy soon in order to address this spiralling economy,” he said.
Besides Budget 2023, Bridget said the upcoming six elections for states Selangor, Penang, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu would be “extremely competitive” and may give uncertain results and new types of alliances.
She said that Anwar’s government remains “fragile” with “unconstructive opposition” that still desires power.
“I think in 12 months’ time, we may see a situation where you are lucky to have the same government but perhaps different actors, that is the most likely situation, but I don’t rule out the possibility of a new coalition forming,” she said.
Oh added that the various state elections are testing grounds to observe whether the conservative onslaught will continue, as the GE15 results have revealed that many young and old voters had aligned themselves to the conservative spectrum.