Malaysia PM marks 100 days with populist measures | KUALA LUMPUR (AP), 12-July-2009: Malaysia’s leader announced economic sweeteners for the public to mark his first 100 days in office, but opposition critics accused him Sunday of relying on populist measures like “an early Christmas Santa Claus” to strengthen his support.

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s efforts to revive the sagging popularity of his National Front ruling coalition have received a boost after a recent opinion poll indicated that Malaysians were increasingly warming to him.

In a nationally televised speech Saturday, Najib announced a number of steps to help mostly poorer citizens cope with the financial downturn, such as reducing fees for people to set up small businesses in Kuala Lumpur and cutting the cost of obtaining motorcycle licenses and paying road toll charges.

“Today it is all about you, the people of Malaysia,” Najib said. “The moves that I have unveiled in these 100 days are only the first steps in our journey toward a better, brighter future.”

Najib succeeded an unpopular prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, on April 3 and pledged to restore public support for the National Front, which suffered its worst electoral results last year after more than five decades in power.

Najib has promised to tackle widespread complaints of government graft and racial discrimination. He has sought to lure foreign investment by rolling back an affirmative action program for the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, including scrapping a requirement for Malays to own a 30 percent stake in some sectors of the financial services industry.

The independent Merdeka Center research firm last week said Najib’s approval rating has rocketed from 45 percent in mid-May to 65 percent, according to a recent telephone survey of about 1,000 voters nationwide. The survey had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The center said the results indicate a rising number of Malaysians appreciate Najib’s decisions.

Senior opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, however, accused Najib of trying to be “an early Christmas Santa Claus” with his latest measures, instead of introducing meaningful reforms to combat problems such as corruption and crime.

“What exactly has the prime minister got to offer which are really different from the discredited and past failed policies of the National Front government?” Lim said in a statement.

Najib has also benefited from signs of disarray within a three-party opposition alliance that won more than one-third of the seats in Parliament in general elections last year. Opposition officials have increasingly bickered in recent weeks over policy decisions in some of the four states ruled by the opposition.