It looks like political rivals from the Pakatan Rakyat may be right about embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak being in a panic mode after seeing the latest internal surveys conducted by his party.
According to Pakatan leaders, these had shown a downhill slide in public support for Najib and his government, prompting him to hint of holding the 13th general election after the Hari Raya celebrations instead of waiting until early next year when the results of the Budget 2013, due to be tabled on Sept 28, filter through.
This appears to have been borne out by an independent survey released by the Merdeka Centre on Thursday that showed Najib’s rating falling another 1 percentage point in June to 64%. When compared to the 71% rating held by his predecessor Abdullah Badawi just prior to the 2008 general election, it becomes clear that Najib’s performance has been even more disastrous than thought.
No one to blame but himself for refusing to heed voters’ wishes
The Merdeka survey results also bolsters pundits’ predictions that the Pakatan led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim could snatch the federal government at the 13th general election, with Malaysians negatively weighing the prospect of another “5 damaging years” with the BN in charge.
It was also telling that in the same survey, Najib’s BN coalition plunged 6 percentage points to 42% in approval rating. The major drop in satisfaction came from the largest electorate – the Malay voters – and this should sound all alarm bells in the BN, which has ruled Malaysia since 1957.
“Now it becomes clear why suddenly Najib announced half-month bonus for civil servants and RM500 cash aid for pensioners even before Budget 2013 can be tabled. The overall allocation comes up to RM2.2bil. This is a massive sum and highly unusual to be announced outside of the Budget. It is also significant that payment will be made on August 9. All these point to GE-13 after Hari Raya,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
“Of course, Najib can still chicken out and use the Merdeka poll as an excuse to recapture the hearts and minds of the voters. But RM2.2bil is too massive a bullet to waste. Chances are high he will go through with GE-13 before the approval ratings for himself and BN plunge even further. He should not try to blame BN because BN is dominated by Umno and he is the president of Umno. Frankly, MCA, Gerakan and MIC were finished long ago. This latest BN plunge is due to Umno’s loss of ground with the Malays who are sickened by the corruption.”
Voters no longer believe in his reform pledges
The opinion survey conducted among voters in peninsular Malaysia showed that satisfaction with the prime minister’s performance declined among Malay and Indian voters from 79 per cent to 75 per cent, and from 72 per cent to 69 per cent, respectively. But Najib’s numbers among Chinese voters rose from 37 per cent in May to 42 per cent in June.
“The mixed views from the communities may likely be influenced by increased concerns over the state of the economy and, among Indian respondents, coupled with dissatisfaction over statements towards civil society activist Datuk Ambiga Sreenivasan,” Merdeka Center for Opinion Research said in a statement today.
“On the other hand, some respondents may have been well disposed towards the government’s intention to replace the Sedition Act, recognition of the degrees awarded by Tunku Abdul Rahman college as well as easing anger over the response to last April’s Bersih protests,” the country’s most respected polling centre said.
Cash aid and goodies galore
Najib’s approval ratings have been falling from the 60 to 70 per cent band over the past three surveys by Merdeka Center as speculation mounts that he will call snap elections this year before the BN mandate expires in April 2013. Even with 71% rating, Badawi received a drubbing at the 2008 ballot, losing control of 5 states and the BN’s customary two-thirds control of Parliament.
Under pressure, Najib has been forced to boost his flagging popularity with giveaways such as direct cash aids to lower-income households and reforms to repressive security laws. He also announced Malaysia’s first national minimum wage at the end of April in another boost for poorer voters but the plan was slammed as “too little” by worker groups.
The Malaysian PM’s biggest blunder was his mishandling of the April 28 Bersih 3.0 rally for clean elections. More than 250,000 people turned up to support the rally but a panicky Najib ordered one of the the bloodiest police crackdowns in recent history.
Big drop for the BN due mostly to Umno
The Merdeka survey also showed gloomy results reflected for the BN government.
The survey showed voters’ views of the government continued to decline with 42 per cent of respondents reporting that “they were happy with the government”, a drop of six per cent compared to the survey conducted in the middle of May 2012.
The decline was particularly noticeable among Malay voters, where responses of those saying “happy” with the government declined from 65 per cent in May to 58 per cent in June 2012.
“In our view, the decline may have less to do with politics or how they perceive the prime minister but with how voters perceive the economy is performing and its effect on their livelihood,” Merdeka Center said.
The same survey found that concerns over economic issues, particularly cost of living and wages, were topmost on the minds of voters, at 39 per cent of them compared to 33 per cent in May 2012.
This is followed by concerns over crime and social problems at 12 per cent and political issues at eight per cent.
The survey found that rising concerns over the economy may have also dampened the national outlook with 54 per cent saying the country is headed on the right track compared to 58 per cent in April 2012.
The survey was carried out by the Merdeka Center between June 22 and 29 among 1,010 registered voters comprising 59 per cent Malay, 32 per cent Chinese and nine per cent Indian respondents who were interviewed by telephone in the poll.