Economic growth in M'sia does not necessarily benefit ruling Barisan Nasional coalition

This is unlike other countries where the opposite is mostly true.

Kayla Wong| May 09, 05:29 PM

Economic growth in Malaysia may not necessarily benefit Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

This finding is from data that showed constituencies that switched hands from BN in the 12th general election to the opposition in the 13th general election had a larger increase in median income, as compared to those that remain under the BN's control

Higher median income does not mean greater support for BN

In a report published on April 16 by Cassey Lee, a Senior Fellow at ISEAS Yusok-Ishak Institute, that used data gathered from household income surveys published by Malaysia's Department of Statistics, the following observations were made:

  • Constituencies that switched from BN to non-BN rule tend to experience a larger increase in median income as compared to those that remained under BN rule.
  • However, constituencies that switched from non-BN to BN rule do not necessarily experience higher increase in median income as compared to those that remained under non-BN rule.

This means that constituencies that switched from incumbent to opposition rule tend to have a greater increase in median income than those that switched the other way round or remained in BN.

This is why a rise in median household income in Malaysia does not necessarily translate into greater support for the ruling party -- a trend that is the opposite from most countries.

For instance, the success of Singapore's ruling party, the People's Action Party (PAP), is said to be partly based on the country's economic growth, according to The Economist .

Higher income growth in opposition-controlled areas strengthens support for them

Furthermore, Lee observed that non-BN constituencies, which already have higher levels of median income to begin with as compared to BN constituencies, tend to experience higher income growth.

As a result, this is likely to further entrench the support for the opposition parties in such urban constituencies.

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Rural Malay support key factor in upcoming Malaysia elections

Even so, support from the rural Malay populations is the most crucial when it comes to winning the election.

Both BN and its main competitor, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance, have made several efforts to win over the rural Malay vote, such as promising debt forgiveness to farmers, giving cash handouts, and even resorting to racial politics.

The BN coalition has also allegedly redrawn electoral boundaries in its favour, sparking protests from the opposition.

Top image via Najib Facebook