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
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
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
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
"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
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.