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Malaysia's ruling coalition rolls out election campaign to counter price worrie

Contributed by Anonymous on Monday, February 25 @ 05:13:21 CST

National: Politics
The Associated Press
February 25, 2008KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia's governing coalition unleashed a media blitz Monday to counter public complaints over escalating prices that could undercut its support in March 8 general elections. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's National Front coalition rolled out a major publicity campaign with a slogan promising "security, peace, prosperity" in advertisements that featured prominently in newspapers and on television.

The media offensive — begun on the second day of a 13-day formal campaign period — illustrates the National Front's advantage of having extensive funds to pour into publicity and widespread support from the pro-government mainstream media. Full-page print advertisements trumpeted how Malaysia's retail prices for fuel, flour, sugar and cooking oil were all significantly lower than in neighboring Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore because of government subsidies. The government spent 43.4 billion ringgit (US$13.7 billion; €9.3 billion) last year to subsidize prices of essential items "so that all Malaysians enjoy lower prices and have more money in their pockets, because we care," the advertisements said."Only one choice: Barisan Nasional," they said, using the Malay name for the National Front. Malaysia's inflation remains moderate, with consumer prices increasing 2 percent in 2007. But authorities are expected to raise fuel prices soon, which could spark an across-the-board rise in the cost of living. Abdullah announced other economic pledges in the coalition's election platform Monday, such as lowering the number of people living in poverty from the current 3.5 percent to 2.8 percent by 2010. Poverty is defined in different ways for various parts of Malaysia, but generally, households of at least five people that earn less than 700 ringgit (US$220; €150) per month are considered to be below the poverty line. The manifesto also seeks to quell minority complaints about racial and religious discrimination in this Muslim-majority nation through measures such as ensuring sufficient places of worship "to protect the interests of all communities." "Our promises are realistic and made responsibly, not empty promises just to make the people happy," Abdullah said in a speech. The National Front already has an edge in the elections after winning seven parliamentary constituencies Sunday when no opposition candidates came forward to run for those seats. Another 215 seats will be contested in next month's ballot. The coalition won 199 of 219 parliamentary seats in 2004 polls. It has acknowledged it will win fewer seats this time — but hopes to still retain more than a two-thirds majority — amid complaints over rising inflation, crime and racial and religious tensions.



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