Honeymoon over for Malaysian PM as popularity drops

Channel News Asia | KUALA LUMPUR, 08-October-2009 : Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s popularity ratings have dropped, according to a poll released on Thursday which indicated that excitement over his appointment six months ago had faded.

The Merdeka Centre research firm said that 56 per cent of 1,027 people surveyed were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with Najib’s performance as premier, down from the 65 per cent support he enjoyed in June.

The boost in his polls numbers in June had been attributed to a series of economic reforms, and an olive branch extended to ethnic minorities in the multicultural nation during his first 100 days in office.

“People are settling down after the initial euphoria over a new prime minister when he made a lot of announcements,” Merdeka Centre director Ibrahim Suffian told AFP.

Ibrahim said the ruling coalition now needs a boost from a victory in a by-election this weekend, when it is seeking to break a winning streak by the opposition which has won seven out of eight special votes held over the past year.

The seat of Bagan Pinang in the parliament of central Negri Sembilan state is currently held by Najib’s coalition, and it is credited with a strong chance of retaining the seat.

The opposition will be represented by a candidate from the conservative Islamic party PAS, one of three component parties in the alliance.

The Merdeka Centre survey showed Najib’s support had fallen among all ethnic groups in Malaysia, which is dominated by majority Muslim Malays, but also home to large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

Najib has been partly dismantling a decades-old system of positive discrimination for Malays, who enjoyed benefits in education, housing and jobs, which had previously been seen as a political taboo.

He has also said that he is intent on reclaiming the support of minorities, who shifted to the opposition in elections a year ago which dealt the ruling coalition its worst results in half a century.

– AFP/so