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By Bridget Welsh

Buying support - Najib's 'commercialisation' of GE13

GE13 SPECIAL The billion ringgit question of this campaign is how much is being spent in the 2013 general election campaign and who is paying for it?

Throughout the country, voters are already reporting early efforts to woo the electorate such as special grocery vouchers of RM300 in Sandakan and handouts of RM50 to attend a Umno meeting in Tanjong Malim, among many others.

br1m 2.0 launch by najib razak 2The promise of more goodies on the way is being repeated over and over, from the symbolic extension and increase of BR1M (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia) to more general ‘assistance'.

The use of electoral incentives is well-known and honed, but there is a fundamental shift in the overall pattern this time round. Scholars such as Universiti Sains Malaysia emeritus professor Francis Loh have described the electioneering pattern as from one of patronage to ‘developmentalism', where voters have moved from relying on everyday personal ties and relations with politicians to the promise of development projects.

In this election, a new pattern of commercialisation has emerged, where the ‘You help me, I help you' and ‘Let's make a deal' mantras are framing the campaign in what is crassly an economic exchange...