21
May
17

How safe is BN’s 1.6 million civil servant vote bank?

How safe is BN’s 1.6 million civil servant vote bank?

AKHMA opted for the top bunk in the smallest room in a three-bedroom flat in Precinct 9, Putrajaya. It wasn’t cheap at RM280 a month, but still cheaper than a room or a whole unit to herself. The lower bunk costs RM20 extra.

Though a civil servant, she had to share the flat with five housemates.

“My flat is in the most undesirable location in Putrajaya, where most of the foreign workers live. I have been living here for 1½ years now and it’s not cheap either,” she told The Malaysian Insight at one of the government complexes in the administrative capital.

The 27-year-old from Gombak said she had to relocate to Putrajaya because of work demands, the same reason she bought a Proton Saga.

“I could’ve chosen to live in a bigger place or buy a Myvi, but I want to save at least RM300 a month,” she said, adding that she spent most of her salary on patrol and food.

She said the cost of living would be one of the major factors when it comes to voting in the next general election.

“I don’t really follow politics but I will look at their election manifestos and see which one will benefit people like me,” the undecided voter said.

Political analyst Mohamad Hisomuddin Bakar of the Ilham Centre said unlike those with perks at the top, civil servants aged 35 and under were the ones struggling to make ends meet and more willing to vote in change.

The 1.6 million civil servants, who make up 12% of registered voters, are considered Barisan Nasional’s vote bank.

“We can even see the trend in the previous election and if situation does not change, we expect a bigger swing from the civil servants,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Factors like low salaries, rising cost of living, high housing prices and weak ringgit have changed the voting pattern even for those from hard-core Umno families, he said.

Last December, The Sun reported Congress of Union of Employees in the Public and Civil Services Malaysia (Cuepacs) president Azih Muda as saying about 700,000 to 800,000 civil servants could be categorised in the bottom 40% (B40) group.

GDP effects not trickling down

Socio-Economic Research Centre Sdn Bhd executive director Lee Heng Guie said despite forecast of stronger gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first quarter of 2017, people were still worried about the current economic situation.

“There is a disconnection between what the data shows and what consumers are feeling. People still feel that conditions have not improved as they look at the overall economy and see that growth has slowed down for the last two years,” he said.

Lee added that the scenario could be reflected in Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER)’s consumer sentiment index (CSI), which is still below the 100-point optimism threshold. Malaysia’s consumer price inflation also hit an eight-year high in March, at 5.1%.

“Despite petrol prices dropping in the last three weeks, the cost of living is still high and that will continue to pinch on the low income and the middle income. This is due to price stickiness as traders will not lower prices even though petrol prices have come down.”

RAM Ratings expects the economy to grow 4.8% in the first quarter, a higher figure than the 4.5% in the Q4, 2016. The ratings agency cited stronger exports as the major factor for the Q1 growth rate. Bank Negara will release the Q1 growth rate today.

Hisomuddin said only senior civil servants, such as those who in premier grades or JUSA (public service premier post) are worried about a change in government.

“The dogma of civil servants must vote (ruling party) has changed but for senior officers or JUSA, it’s still about Malay Muslims who must lead the government, not a party like DAP,” he said.

Crackdown on civil servants

Despite the recent Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) crackdown on immigration, customs and police personnel in recent weeks, political scientist Dr Wong Chin Huat does not think it will figure during elections.

The Penang Institute fellow said the majority of government employees were not decision-makers, law enforcers or gate-keepers in any licensing or application process.

“Hence they have no power to extract bribery or embezzle public funds. I doubt they will identify with the corrupt officials who live way beyond their legal incomes.

“Najib’s civil servant votes are shaken, not so much by crackdown on graft, but because he has no buy money to give subsidies and pay rise to buy their support,” Wong said.

…more
How safe is BN’s 1.6 million civil servant vote bank?
19 May 2017 – Malaysian Insight

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