Poll shows strong Umno backing for Najib

The Malaysian Insider | KUALA LUMPUR, 30-Dec-2009 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak appears to have won overwhelming support from his own party, with a recent poll showing 93 per cent of Umno delegates saying the country was headed in the right direction, largely because of the “quality of national leadership” and “good administration”.

A total of 95 per cent of Umno delegates surveyed also expressed satisfaction with Najib since he took over as party president. Notably, 66 per cent of party delegates polled felt that Umno had recovered from the problems that led to its poor performance in the last general election.

The results of the survey by the independent Merdeka Center, commissioned by a local research house, suggest Najib is on a much stronger footing compared with his predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi prior to Election 2008 as he prepares plans to go to the polls, most likely either in 2011 or 2012.

According to a summary of the poll provided by Merdeka Center, satisfaction with the party president among delegates was very high at 95 per cent, with 60 per cent of them saying they were “very satisfied” with his performance since taking over the leadership of Umno.

“The main reason for the strong approval stems from the perceived improvement in leadership qualities,” said the Merdeka Center.

Merdeka Center conducted the poll between Nov 4 and 11 of 358 Umno delegates from the most recent recent party assembly.

Coverage of the survey included at least one individual from each party division.

The poll also showed strong backing from party delegates for Najib’s policies and ideas, including his 1 Malaysia concept and moves to liberalise the economy.

A total of 83 per cent supported moves to liberalise the economy while 94 per cent backed the 1 Malaysia concept.

Overwhelming backing for Najib in his policies suggests that the prime minister will not have to watch his back in pursuing reforms in government and in his party.

Crucially, the poll shows the Umno president has secured strong support from his party in facing off a strong opposition in the form of Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

The survey also found that 83 per cent agreed that “Umno should be inclusive of all Malaysians, not just Malays”. However the Merdeka Center noted that support for the idea was somewhat lower among those delegates below 30 at 77 per cent.

Notably, the poll found that 64 per cent of party delegates supported the remarks made by Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, who has been the target of heavy attacks from conservatives in the party, that “Malays should break out from the siege mentality”. But among younger delegates below 30, only 38 per cent supported Khairy’s views.

However, the poll also found that 70 per cent of delegates agreed that “Malay rights and interests were being threatened by other ethnic groups in Malaysia”. Younger delegates below 30 agreed most with this statement, with 76 per cent backing the idea.

An overwhelming number of the Umno delegates polled believed that the party’s public image was generally positive, but at the same time 85 per cent felt Umno still needed to change or reform.

When asked what reforms were needed, 32 per cent said “continued improvement in party leadership qualities”, followed by 14 per cent who said “the attitude of party members”, while 12 per cent felt that party members needed to work harder to “strengthen the party”.

Only two per cent of those polled suggested “ending cronyism and nepotism” as a type of change needed by the party.

Asked about the specific problems faced by Umno, only 13 per cent of delegates felt the party was “too Malay-centric”, 27 per cent agreed that the party “favoured its own members over others”, 33 per cent agreed that it was not “taking public views seriously”, 47 per cent agreed that “money politics among office bearers” was a problem and 52 per cent agreed that there was “corruption in government”.

By Leslie Lau
Consultant Editor