KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — The government announced today wide-ranging aid for the poor and higher development spending in its 2009 budget aimed at shoring up its popularity amid spiralling inflation and political weakness.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose administration has been shaken by an election debacle and slowing economic growth this year, also used his annual budget speech in Parliament to mount a scathing attack on the revitalised opposition led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Anwar, who was sworn in as a lawmaker yesterday after winning a by-election, wants to unseat Abdullah by Sept 16 through parliamentary defections. Anwar's opposition alliance won an unprecedented 82 of Parliament's 222 seats in March general elections – 30 short of a majority.
Abdullah warned that efforts by certain parties to destabilise the country by attempting to seize power through illegitimate means and without the mandate of the people must be rejected.
“I will not allow disturbances to continue. I will not permit the mandate given by the people to be seized” from the ruling party, he said.
In a clear reference to Anwar's pledge to cut retail gasoline prices if he seizes power, Abdullah blasted his “populist claims”.
If implemented, they “would undermine the government's financial position and bequeath a bankrupt nation to the next generation”, Abdullah said.
Anwar, however, shot back at Abdullah's accusation of "opportunistic threats of seizing the people's mandate through undemocratic means".
"He still has the audacity to preach about democracy. Look at his media policy, corruption, judiciary. A no-confidence vote is a normal process and is the decision of the MPs," Anwar said.
The newly appointed opposition leader said when Abdullah talked of "mandates, he sounded like a dictator. What snatching? It is the will of the people and their representatives. He himself wanted to snatch Permatang Pauh."
He defended his claims that petrol prices could be lowered to RM2, saying that Abdullah "has not read my economic agenda and knowing him, I don't think he will. I think he does not realise that it can be done without affecting our revenue."
The former deputy prime minister, who seeks to take over the federal government on Sept 16, called the continuous deficit budgets an exception among oil-producing countries and said the lack of competitiveness in our country would not attract foreign direct investment.
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