By Mohd Farhan Darwis
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — The Najib administration’s Budget 2013 can only swell voter support for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government in national polls due soon, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
The country’s fourth prime minister, who was in office for 22 years from 1981 to 2003, also praised Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s proposed budget, saying it will boost the coalition’s electoral chances.
“The Budget is good... I feel there will be a increase in support for BN,” he told reporters today after officiating an award ceremony at the National Heart Institute (IJN) here this afternoon.
Only last month, Dr Mahathir had forecasted that BN would emerge from the 13th general elections at the helm of a weakened government in what is widely anticipated to be a tightly-contested race for federal power.
Dr Mahathir told a forum of business leaders here on September 19 that it was “likely” that BN would retain Putrajaya after the polls but may form a weak government, which he said, was undesirable as the coalition would then be more preoccupied with its political survival than governing the country.
He said the Najib administration’s practice of handing out cash to Malaysians was “very close” to vote-buying, but admitted that the measure was to help give a quick boost to BN’s support base ahead of elections.
Appearing on a stump for BN, the outspoken leader had said the coalition needed a strong government to help it implement policies that may be “unpleasant” but would be beneficial to the country in the long term.
Any government formed with a weak parliamentary majority could be toppled easily through mass defections, Dr Mahathir had warned.
BN leaders disagreed with Dr Mahathir’s assessment of its chances.
They also disagreed with his suggestion that the Najib administration’s cash handouts were a form of vote-buying but pointed out that the political veteran had also acknowledged that BN desperately needed to boost its popularity to ensure a stronger government after the coming polls.
But leaders from the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact also latched on to Dr Mahathir’s remarks that the BN government’s propensity to resort to cash handouts to the public was close to vote-buying as a sign that the administration lacked long-term solutions and ideas for the country.