Kit Siang wonders if Najib will be tempted to hold snap polls – By Lee Wei Lian

The Malaysian Inside | PETALING JAYA, 12-July-2009 — The prime minister’s rise in approval ratings may mean a snap poll as soon as November, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang predicted today.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak assumed office in April as a result of a deal brokered with his predecessor, Tun Ahmad Abdullah Badawi, who was pressured into stepping down prematurely after the Barisan Nasional’s poor performance in the March general election.

Some political observers have said that the prime minister needs to secure a fresh mandate by calling an election before the 2013 deadline.

Najib had entered office under a cloud of allegations, including alleged links to the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and that he would be clamping down on democratic space in the country.

According to independent polling firm Merdeka Center, Najib was staring at low approval ratings of only 45 per cent as of May, one month after being sworn in as prime minister.

A series of reform-minded policy announcements later and Najib’s ratings have risen sharply to 65 per cent by the end of June.

With his message of racial unity and lifting of ethnic quotas in selected sectors of the services and financial industry, he also appears to have won back a significant chunk of the non-Malay support that fled to the opposition during the last general election due to racial politics practised by the Barisan Nasional.

Approval ratings among Chinese and Indians are at 48 and 74 per cent respectively, up from 24 and 64 per cent in May.

Lim says that if approval ratings keep rising, the prime minister may call an election this year.

“If they can crank up approval ratings by another 20 per cent, he will be tempted to call for an election soon as it is not easy to sustain a high popularity rating,” he said, pointing at Abdullah who saw his record high approval ratings in 2004 nosedive by 2008.

Lim was speaking at a meeting of DAP state-level leaders aimed at strengthening internal organisation.

“An election is uppermost in their minds and it must be uppermost on our minds too,” he said. “We must not be caught unprepared.”

Monash University Malaysia political analyst James Chin disagrees however that the prime minister will call a snap election based solely on approval ratings, but will wait until the economy recovers from the current slowdown.

“It is more likely that he calls a snap election when the economy recovers,” Chin told The Malaysian Insider. “That means that the earliest that Najib is likely to call for a general election is next year.”