Pandemic, Malay power lend popularity boost to Malaysia PM: Poll

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin gestures after his cabinet announcement in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Mar 9, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng) | 02-Sept-2020 – KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has been rated highly by voters, according to a poll published on Wednesday (Sep 2), on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and greater representation of the ethnic Malay majority in his administration.

Muhyiddin received a 69 per cent approval rating in a survey run by independent pollster Merdeka Center, six months after taking office in March following a power struggle that saw the collapse of the previous multi-ethnic government led by Mahathir Mohamad.

Survey respondents also gave a 93 per cent approval rating for the government’s handling of COVID-19 and rated it highly for helping the needy and managing the economy during the coronavirus-induced crisis.

Malaysia has reported just over 9,300 coronavirus infections.

In the last popularity poll published by Merdeka Center in April last year, less than half of Malaysians approved of then-premier Mahathir as concerns over rising costs and racial issues plagued his administration.

Merdeka Center Executive Director Ibrahim Suffian said Malay voters indicated a strong preference for the administration’s management of the pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout and for bringing together long-feuding Malay political parties.

“The results also indicate a significant swing of support of Malay voters towards a unified Malay political coalition,” Ibrahim said in a statement.

Ethnic Malays account for some 60 per cent of Malaysia’s population of about 32 million, with the rest comprised mostly of ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian minorities.

Muhyiddin, who leads the Malay-based Bersatu party, secured the premiership backed by two of the largest parties representing Malay interests – the scandal-tainted former ruling party, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party.

But he holds a razor-thin majority in parliament.

In July, UMNO, which forms the largest bloc in Muhyiddin’s administration, withdrew from the prime minister’s political alliance, though the party said it would continue to support the government in parliament.