Malaysia's opposition announces election promises

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 25, 2013 08:00 hrs

Malaysia's opposition alliance pledged Monday to create jobs, increase incomes and combat corruption if it ousts the long-ruling coalition in national elections this year.

The promises form the official agenda of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's three-party People's Alliance, the main political threat to the National Front coalition that has led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

"The people are rising to demand changes," Anwar said in a speech while announcing his alliance's election manifesto. "We are the catalyst of this process. We are confident, God-willing, that we can conquer Putrajaya," Malaysia's administrative capital.

Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to dissolve Parliament within weeks to pave the way for a vote that must be held by the end of June.

Anwar's alliance currently holds slightly more than one-third of Parliament's seats after the long-entrenched National Front endured its worst electoral results ever in 2008 polls amid public complaints about graft and racial discrimination.

The alliance's electoral promises include adding a million jobs by gradually reducing Malaysia's reliance on foreign labor and introducing a 2 billion ringgit ($600 million) fund to facilitate a higher monthly minimum wage.

It also aims to tighten anti-graft laws and halt the operations of a new eastern Malaysian rare earths plant run by Australian miner Lynas Corp. that has sparked health and safety concerns.

Najib has repeatedly accused his rivals of making pledges they can't keep. The prime minister said last week that the National Front was the only side the voters "can trust because it has fulfilled all its promises made to the people."

Anwar criticized the government Monday, saying its leaders were stealing from the country by misusing public funds and giving infrastructure projects to business cronies.

Widespread public grievances caused the National Front to lose its longtime two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2008, but it has sought to regain favor through measures such as channeling more funds to the poor and abolishing security laws that were considered repressive.

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