Malaysian PM Najib Razak rallies party ahead of elections

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 December, 2012, 2:53am

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak rallied support from his political party, signaling it has recovered and is ready to defend its 55-year grip on power after a narrow victory four years ago.

"We will be going to the battlefield not too long from now," said Najib, speaking at the close of the United Malays National Organisation's annual assembly in Kuala Lumpur. "We will have to fight the war and that means we must make sure our team is strong and united."

Najib must dissolve parliament for polls by April 28 after his ruling coalition won the 2008 election by its narrowest margin since the country gained independence. His party, which backs policies favouring Malays, has sought to boost its appeal among ethnic Chinese and Indian voters who have shifted their support to opposition parties in recent years.

The National Front coalition, known locally as Barisan Nasional, controls 137 seats in Malaysia's 222-member parliament, with Najib's UMNO its biggest component. Anwar Ibrahim's three-party opposition known as the People's Alliance holds 75 seats.

Najib, 59, cut income taxes, boosted pay for government workers and extended handouts for the poor in his 2013 budget announced in September. While the global economy has slowed, Malaysia has maintained gross domestic product growth above five per cent for the past five quarters and its benchmark stock index closed at a record last month.

Najib's approval rating fell one percentage point to 64 per cent in June from a month earlier, according to a survey by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research. The poll, the latest available, showed 66 per cent of Chinese and 47 percent of Indians dissatisfied or angry with the government's performance.

The support shown by party members at this week's UMNO assembly indicates that it has recovered from the last general election, government news agency Bernama reported .

Najib's party and the ruling coalition have faced several corruption scandals that have tainted its image over the past year. Malaysia ranked 60th out of 183 nations last year in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index. .