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Malaysia: Which Party Has the Best Election Manifesto?

Malaysia’s 13th General Elections will take place on May 5 and fortunately, the major parties have unveiled their election manifestos which can guide voters in choosing the right candidates. Which party has the best manifesto?

The opposition Pakatan Rakyat published its manifesto on February 25. Titled ‘The People’s Pact, The People’s Hope’, the manifesto seeks the support of voters to dislodge the ruling coalition which has been in power in the past half-century:

Malaysia is a country with immense potential, its people strive for excellence bound by ties of brotherhood and fraternity

However, the power elite hinder our national aspirations. Corruption and greed thrive, while the people continue to live in hardship.

For the sake of the people, let us change and come together to chart the future of a new Malaysia.

The People’s Manifesto is crafted based on four key pillars – Fraternity of the People, the People’s Economy, the People’s Well-being and the People’s Government.

A supporter of the ruling party listens to the speech of the Prime Minister. Photo by Asyraf rasid, Copyright @Demotix (4/6/2013)

A supporter of the ruling party listens to the speech of the Prime Minister. Photo by Asyraf rasid, Copyright @Demotix (4/6/2013)

Meanwhile, the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional announced its manifesto on April 7 led by Prime Minister Najib Razak. Titled ‘A Promise of Hope’, the manifesto listed the achievements of the incumbent government and gave a comprehensive and detailed action plan in the next few years:

The time has come for us to decide. The future of this nation lies in your hands.

The record of this Government in delivering on its promises speaks for itself. Real changes have taken place, but the journey towards total transformation will take time.

As we head into this 13th General Election, I humbly seek your mandate to carry on this task of lifting Malaysia to new heights. A mandate from you is a promise of hope, a mandate for us to achieve greatness together as one people, one nation, one vision. The best is yet to come!

Sarawak Dialogue compares the two manifestos. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim criticizes the manifesto of the ruling party:

The BN Manifesto also lacks new ideas and is very short on details since many programmes have been rehashed and repackaged into something with a new look, in contrast to our People’s Manifesto. More than 90% of the programmes listed are already known to the people and remain too general and lacking in specifics.

Manifesto of the opposition

Manifesto of the opposition

Khoo Kay Peng analyzes the manifesto of the opposition:

…the manifesto is silent on how it is going to achieve its promises. It does not explain how this nation is going to be able to afford some new subsidies, grants, freebies and payouts. The coalition left details on revenue streams aside.

However, the manifesto is definitely a political document. It is designed to please housewives, undergraduates, civil servants, retired armed forces members and Felda settlers who are considered important constituents in the next GE

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia, a non-partisan coalition of 25 Civil Society organizations, identifies the issues ignored by the major parties:

GBM has studied the manifestos of the Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional. As manifestos are designed to attract votes some difficult issues may not be included or dealt with adequately. We identified two major issues:

1. Poverty and inequality and
2. National debts

In the run-up to the election we urge both Barisan and Pakatan to spell out clearly their policy and road-map to tackling these two issues as they impacted on the economic and social well-being of our nation.

Lawrence Yong writes about the ‘war of manifestos’

On first impression, both manifestos seem like wide-ranging populist attempts to buy as many votes as possible. Both are easily dismissed as political ploys.

Reading the manifesto has never been more important for anyone who truly cares about democracy in Malaysia and wishes to vote wisely. Neither answers all policy questions, nor can manifestos be expected to.

This is the first time BN has to publish a manifesto to counter the opposition and they took more than a month to respond.

Hishamh points to the dilemma of voters in reading election manifestos:

So here’s the dilemma – assuming you have to vote, which party would you vote for? Each has proposals that you support, yet each also has proposals you don’t like. Both are broadly similar, yet the differences between the two are in areas that you care about. Neither can you judge which of the two parties, if elected, will actually come through with their promises.

Murmurs from the Heart appreciates the move to publish election manifestos:

The nature of politic in Malaysia has matured to some extent, though there is still a lot mindless emotion driven by those who rely and thrive on politic of hate.

At least now, political parties explicitly lay out their promises in a written manifesto.

At the end of the day, it's not “What you said, what I said”, but what is written.

This manifesto will also be used as a report card as to how many of the promises are fulfilled.

BJ Thoughts warns that manifestos can be disregarded by winning parties:

…you have political manifestos flying around with some claiming each other as unachievable. Fine, manifestos may not be contract cast in stone and to some, it is nothing but a convenient way to let the voters to know on what the party intends to do – ideal intentions that may change over time due to political pressures, financial constraints and of course, dirty politics.

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