Malaysia: All eyes on Budget 2018 as Parliament sits

  • The goodies expected in 27 Oct 17’s Budget and the fate of a controversial Islamic Bill are the two key issues under scrutiny as Malaysia’s Parliament begins its six-week session, ahead of the general election which is expected to be called in the next five months.
  • Najib is expected to stuff the budget with vote-grabbing measures to douse increasingly bitter complaints about the cost of living, while securing his traditional vote banks such as the 1.2 million settlers and their families in the government’s Felda land scheme and the 1.6-million strong public sector.
  • The current sitting could also feature a controversial Bill that has divided MPs and Malaysians alike.
  • The private member’s Bill by Parti Islam SeMalaysia’s (PAS) president Abdul Hadi Awang pushes for more sentencing powers for Malaysia’s syariah (Islamic) courts.
  • What is worrying for critics is that Umno let Datuk Seri Hadi, an opposition leader, table the Bill in the last parliamentary session and had argued in support of it. But debate was then abruptly postponed.
  • This was interpreted by analysts as part of a strategy by Umno to cause a further rift between PAS and the other opposition parties that oppose the Bill.
  • This Parliament session will continue until 30 Nov 17. The House usually reconvenes in Mar 18, but there is growing expectation that polls will take place after Chinese New Year in mid-Feb 18. Parliament will automatically disband in Jun 18 and the Election Commission then has two months, until Aug 18, to set an election date.

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