As the federal government prepares to hand out cash aid to millions of Malaysian households in the next few weeks, the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition is set to be a major beneficiary in terms of votes in this year’s general election, political analysts and even opposition lawmakers have conceded.
They expect the 1 Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) handout to be a swing factor, particularly in rural areas.
“BR1M will provide a huge multiplier effect, not only economically, but to draw votes towards the ruling government,” said Asri Salleh from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Terengganu.
“The recipients will mostly be the hardcore poor and urban poor, so it will definitely swing votes.”
This view was echoed by the DAP.
“They’ll have a big impact. Especially in “protecting” their traditional votes in the rural areas … That’s the reason why (the prime minister) keeps postponing polls,” DAP’s Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua said.
Pua, who is also the DAP Selangor deputy chief, said that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (picture) had missed his chance to call the polls after the first BR1M aid was handed out last year.
“He now knows that he has to call elections within three months of BR1M 2.0 so that the positive effect will not disappear, as people (tend to) forget after three months,” said Pua.
Unlike BN, Pua explained that PR do not have the same financial muscle, especially in states not ruled by them, like Johor, Pahang and Perak, so it will be difficult for them to counter the feel-good effect of BR1M in the rural areas.
A major sum of RM3 billion will be allocated for BR1M 2.0, a more than 40 per cent increase from the RM2.1 billion allocated for the first BR1M.
Datuk Samsol Bari Jamali, Umno Johor information chief, refuted claims that BR1M is a deliberate attempt to sway and ensure votes from a certain segment of the society.
“If BR1M is really for the election, how come the government has started giving it even from last year?.
“BR1M is not a BN thing, it is a manifestation of the government’s promise to the people,” Samsol Bari argued.
Professor Dr Jayum Jawan, a political scientist from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) said that he will not be surprised if BR1M swings the vote of Malaysians towards BN, but criticised the one-off handouts practised by the government.
“If BN wants to capture the hearts of the voters, they need a more comprehensive and sustainable economic blueprint which will involve as many citizens as possible,” offered Jayum.
“BR1M is one-off, people are aware that it is just for the election,” Jayum said.
More than 2.3 million applications had been received for BR1M 2.0 as at December 17, with more than 1.6 million of the applications from single unmarried people and more than 720,000 from households.
Malaysians with a household income of less than RM3,000 a month are eligible for the one-off RM500 cash aid, while single unmarried individuals aged 21 and above and earning not more than RM2,000 a month are eligible for a one-off RM250 aid.
BR1M 2.0 is expected to benefit 4.3 million households and 2.7 million single unmarried individuals, compared to 4.2 million people for the first BR1M last year.