KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak Saturday pledged millions of new jobs and more cash for low-income workers, ahead of a tough election battle expected early next month.
Najib is fighting to win a third term at the head of his ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which has governed Malaysia since independence in 1957 but has seen support drop in recent years.
He faces a revived opposition and is battling a massive financial scandal, making the hotly-anticipated poll one of the sternest-ever tests for the alliance.
“This war, we must win! Never let it go to the opposition!” he told thousands of supporters in a packed stadium on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur as he launched his election manifesto.
Najib said he would increase the value of cash aid handouts to people on low incomes, with payments planned for June and August.
He also pledged to create three million jobs in the country of 32 million and gradually raise the minimum wage to at least RM1,500 (US$387) per month.
He faces a challenge from the opposition alliance Pact of Hope, led by his 92-year-old former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who came out of political retirement last year with a bid to unseat Najib at the polls.
The premier is also at the center of allegations that billions of dollars were looted from 1MDB, a sovereign wealth fund he founded.
Both Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.
The coalition aims to regain a two-thirds majority in the 222-seat parliament, which it lost at the 2008 election.
The poll must be held within 60 days of Parliament’s dissolution on Saturday and is expected in early May, though election officials have yet to announce a date.
Najib is tipped to win, despite a rising disillusionment with scandals, increased living costs and divisive racial politics in the multi-ethnic country.