Two-in-Five Malaysians Would Vote for Obama

Angus Reid Global Monitor | 06-Oct-2008 – Barack Obama would defeat John McCain if Malaysians had a say in the United States presidential election, according to a poll by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research. 43 per cent of respondents would vote for the Democratic nominee if they could, while only six per cent would support the Republican contender.

Obama became the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee on Aug. 28, while McCain accepted the Republican Party’s nomination on Sept. 4.

U.S. president George W. Bush is ineligible for a third term in office. The U.S. presidential election is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Earlier this month, political commentator John Gee suggested that one of the reasons why Obama is more popular than McCain amongst south-east Asians is that Obama favours dialogue over military action against Iran to curb its nuclear capabilities. Gee noted: “As a July 17 editorial in Singapore’s Business Times commented, ‘Let there be no mistake: if war does break out, it will have an impact on the balance of power in the Middle East, affect the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections, determine the international energy prices for months or even years to come, and thereby push the U.S. and global economies into a horrendous crisis. The world hopes that cool heads will prevail’.”

Polling Data

The American presidential election is coming soon. If given the chance, who would you vote for as president of the USA?

Barack Obama 43%
John McCain 6%
Not sure 44%
No response 7%

Source: Merdeka Center for Opinion Research
Methodology: Telephone Interviews with 1,030 Malaysian voters, conducted Sept. 11 to Sept. 22, 2008. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.

Malaysians Still Dissatisfied with PM Abdullah

Angus Reid Global Monitor | 05-Oct-2008 – Most people in Malaysia are disappointed with the performance of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, according to a poll by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research. 53 per cent of respondents disapprove of the prime minister’s performance, down one point since July.

The ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO)—the biggest party in a coalition of 12 political factions known as the National Front (BN)—has formed the government after every election since the Asian country attained its independence from Britain in 1957.

Abdullah took over as prime minister in October 2003, after the retirement of Mahathir Mohamad, who served for more than 22 years. In the March 2004 election, the National Front secured 198 of the 219 seats in the House of Representatives. Abdullah was sworn in as head of government with the biggest majority in three decades.

In the March 2008 ballot, the National Front won 140 seats in the legislature. The coalition’s share of the vote dropped drastically, from 64.4 per cent in 2004, to 50.27 per cent in 2008. According to Human Rights Watch, the most recent election was “grossly unfair” and marred by irregularities.

On Sept. 29, the Malaysian People’s Movement Party (Gerakan) party—a predominantly ethnic Chinese party and a junior member in the ruling BN coalition—threatened to leave the Abdullah government if it fails to address discrimination against Chinese-descent Malaysians. Gerakan vice-president Teng Hock Nan said that splitting from the coalition is “one of the options” if it is “not willing to initiate drastic changes” on this matter.

Close to seven million ethnic Chinese currently live in Malaysia.

Polling Data

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is performing his job as prime minister?

Sept. 2008 Jul. 2008 Mar. 2008
Approve 43% 42% 53%
Disapprove 53% 54% 31%
Not sure / No reply 4% 4% 6%

Source: Merdeka Center for Opinion Research
Methodology: Telephone Interviews with 1,030 Malaysian voters, conducted Sept. 11 to Sept. 22, 2008. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.


Survey: Tee Keat in pole spot – By NG CHENG YEE

The Star | PETALING JAYA, 03-Oct-2008 : Datuk Ong Tee Keat is the favourite among Malaysian Chinese to become MCA president, according to a survey by the independent Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.

Also, 40% of the respondents think he is qualified to lead the MCA, compared with 6% for the other contender, Datuk Chua Jui Meng. Wanita chief Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen is the second most popular among the respondents, with 12% believing she is fit to lead the party.

To another question, 76% of Chinese respondents said they had a positive impression of Ong, the MCA vice-president, and similarly of Dr Ng, who garnered 67%.

Among the respondents, 57% had a positive impression of Jui Meng, 56% of incumbent vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn and 46% of Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, who is vying for the deputy presidency.

The poll, conducted by the centre between Sept 11 and 22, interviewed 1,002 registered voters on their perceptions of current issues, the economy and the country’s leadership.

In a question to all respondents, two-thirds said that a politician tainted by a sex scandal should not hold a senior post in a political party or the Government.

A total of 64% agreed that an apology from such a politician was not enough for him or her to be accepted as a leader again.

The two questions obviously refer to Soi Lek, who resigned early this year after admitting being the man in a sex DVD.

However, Chinese respondents (48%) were more open to an apology from such a politician compared with Malays (24%) and Indians (12%).

The survey also showed that one-third of the Chinese respondents wanted Barisan Nasional component parties to be more outspoken within the coalition.

In a surprising revelation, the survey found that more Malaysian Indians (70%) were aware of the Oct 18 party election than the Chinese (55%). – The Star

Anwar leads Malaysia poll, economy dominates concerns

Reuters India – Mumbai,India | KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters), 29-Sep-2008 – Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim scored better than the government’s pick to become the next prime minister in an opinion poll which showed that worries over the economy dominated voter concerns.

Anwar is threatening to unseat the government that has ruled Malaysia for 51 years and the rise of the opposition since their success in elections in March has paralysed policy-making as top politicians from the government jostle for power.

The poll by the Merdeka Center published on Monday showed that for half of people questioned, the main concern in this country of 27 million people was the economy at a time when fuel prices have risen and inflation has surged to 27-year highs.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who has offered to quit early to avoid a leadership challenge topped the poll, although his approval ratings continue to fall.

Asked who would make the better prime minister, 40 percent said Anwar and 34 percent said Najib Razak. Najib has been named as successor to Abdullah who scored 43 percent.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was imprisoned on what he says were trumped up sodomy and corruption charges in the late 1990s was characterised as “a strong and visionary leader” and “a competent manager of the economy” by 51 percent of respondents in the poll of 1,003 voters.

He is facing new charges of sodomy which he denies.

Anwar has said that he has won over enough government MPs to oust Abdullah in a confidence vote in parliament and the prime minister on Friday said he would hand power to Najib, most likely in March

Abdullah had earlier planned to hand over power in 2010.

Since becoming prime minister in 2004, Abdullah has failed to implement key pledges such as ending corruption and boosting the independence of the judiciary. The policy drift, along with rising racial tensions, has unsettled both party activists and investors.


A year ago just 25 percent of those questioned in a similar poll by Merdeka, an independent pollster, were worried about the economy in the poll a year ago compared with 50 percent now.

Markets are nervous over a prolonged transition.

“Political noise remains elevated, which we consider bearish for risky assets, including the ringgit, and bullish for government bonds,” ING said in its morning Asia research report.

ING forecasts that the ringgit will end this year at 3.55 to the dollar compared with 3.4410, a depreciation of over 3 percent. It has already fallen 3.7 percent this year.

The plan to hand power to Najib has also unsettled some in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party that dominates the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

On Saturday, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a former finance minister said the plan was “extra constitutional” and said he would stand in the party polls.

Home Minister Syed Hamid said on Sunday said that the intense contest for party posts was causing splits in UMNO.

“We see that the heat is becoming more intense, as though there are instigators pitting one group against another,” he said, according to state news agency Bernama.

Traditionally the leader of UMNO is also the prime minister of Malaysia and under party rules, any contenders for UMNO president must garner 30 percent of total nominations to be eligible to run.

Malaysia: would watchdog free web?

Index On Censorship – London, UK | 29-Sep-2008 – The establishment of an independent press council may help protect journalists and Internet activists like Raja Petra Kamaruddin, writes
Daniel Chandranayagam

Tan is a young Malaysian, newly employed in the private sector. Like many Malaysians his age, Tan is a product of the Mahathir era, having heeded the call to get a degree, and help Malaysia develop into a knowledge economy. Tan is bright and discerning. And Tan is unhappy with many things happening in Malaysia. He does not write to a local newspaper with his complaints. He posts them on his blog.

Like many young Malaysians, Tan is well-versed with the Web 2.0 functionalities. Shunning mainstream news, whether it be print or broadcast, young (and some older) Malaysians obtain information, exchange ideas and have forums online. The emergence of Tan’s generation has left the authorities in a dilemma. Having been so used to controlling what makes the news, authorities were ill-prepared for the amount and range of information the Internet has given the population. In what appears to be a hasty post-election afterthought, calls for the establishment of a media watchdog have been resurrected.
In June 2008, Malaysia’s Home Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, was reported to have announced that his ministry had plans to meet with media organisations to formulate a policy for the creation of the proposed press council. Following this, the Foreign Minister, Rais Yatim, called for bloggers to be monitored by some form of watchdog council.
Calls for a Malaysian Media Press Council were mooted as far back as 2001, both by the government and opposition. A bill was drafted by the Malaysian Press Institute, planned for tabling in Parliament in 2003. The bill was criticised by many groups, for example, Article 19, which stated that the bill did not really establish an independent body, separate from the state and politics. It was also reported that Malaysia’s National Union of Journalists did not accept the bill, as its members feared that journalists were not well represented in the council and that it might impose more restrictions on local media.

Because of this lack of support, the initiative lost steam until 2005, when the call for a media watchdog was again revived.
In the initial bid, the then Information Parliamentary Secretary, Zainuddin Maidin, had stated that one of the most important functions of a Malaysian Media Council would be to ensure the journalists toed the line on political and social sensitivite issues, so that chief editors could contend with problems like ‘company bottom line, staff salaries, bonuses, misuse of courts by con-artists, legal practitioners out to make a quick buck and the opposition’. Meanwhile, opposition stalwart Lim Kit Siang stated in a 2001 press release that an ‘independent high-powered media council’ was needed to promote free and responsible press, with powers to expose all instances of irresponsible foreign and local reporting.

Now the media landscape is quite different. While blogs and Internet news portals were not that popular in 2001, they are the source of news for most urbanites. In fact, news sourcing from the Internet has given people such a different view of local politics that many credit the Internet with causing the ruling coalition party to fail to secure two-thirds majority in parliament during the election of March this year.

It was a matter of both demand and supply. While Malaysiakini has been the main alternative online news site for close to a decade, together with the controversial Malaysia Today news portal (the editor of which, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, is currently being held by police on suspicion of ‘dissent’), the months leading to the March 2008 elections saw two more news sites, Malaysia Votes (now transformed into the Nut Graph), and the popular the Malaysian Insider, come into being. At that time, personal blogs also experienced high hit counts.

Information from the Internet was printed in pamphlets and disseminated, or referred to, during the election campaign talks and rallies. The Merdeka Center’s director, Ibrahim Suffian, said at a press conference on 4 September that this was how news reached many rural communities during the March 2008 election.
It is also the case that Malaysians have grown bolder since the March elections. Having failed to get two-thirds majority in parliament, the ruling coalition may find it a challenge to pass a bill or amend the federal constitution. Emboldened, bloggers have been expressing their anti-government views online. For example, blogger Bakaq, aka Penarik Beca, recently spoke up against the police, and is now being investigated for sedition. Another blogger, Sheih, aka kickdefella, expressed indignation at the loss of jobs due to a new ruling regarding petrol kiosks, requesting other bloggers to post the Malaysian flag upside down as a sign of distress. He too is now being investigated for sedition. Of course, blogger and news site editor of Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Kamarudin (or RPK), is subject not only to sedition charges, but also to several defamation suits. His news portal was also recently blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), although this decision was subsequently found to have breached Malaysian law, and the site was reinstated last week.

But for the government, the situation seems to be getting out hand, explaining perhaps why Foreign Minister, Rais Yatim, has called for a watchdog on online media.
It appears that the development of a media council in Malaysia is at a stalemate for both government and journalists. There is currently a barrage of legislation already curtailing media freedom, namely the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, the Official Secrets Act 1972, the Internal Security Act 1960, the Sedition Act 1948, the Communications & Multimedia Act 1998, the Computer Crimes Act 1997 and the criminal defamation provisions under the Penal Code. The press and some of the public are reluctant to support a media council without the other forms of regulation first being abolished.

Some don’t consider the prospect of abolition of these controls likely, because many of the legislations listed above fall under the portfolios of differing ministries. For example, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 comes under the auspices of the Home Ministry, while the Communications & Multimedia Act 1998 is under the Energy, Waters and Communication Minister’s portfolio. Meanwhile, the calls for a press council have been from the Information Ministry. As such, if or when the press council is established, many are sceptical if any of the other ministries would willingly give up their sway on information.

The press and the public can hardly be blamed for being sceptical about a press council. For example, while the Communications & Multimedia Act 1998 disallows the censorship of the Internet, and the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Malaysia’s Bill of Guarantees promises no Internet censorship, the authorities were still able to block the Malaysia Today news portal, albeit briefly. As such, it seems the trust between Joe Public and the authorities has eroded to the point where nothing promised is believed until and unless it is actually executed.

However, the government might actually get what it wants. In a survey conducted by Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Merdeka Center on media independence, 35 per cent of the respondents said the government should play the most important role in improving media independence in Malaysia. If the press council is seen by the public as a mechanism for boosting media independence, although it has the potential for doing the opposite, there just might be public support for it.

Daniel Chandranayagam blogs at


UMNO leaders clueless of Malaysians’ desires – Posted by St Low

The Malaysian Insider | 24-Sept-2008 – With each passing day, it gets clearer that Umno politicians are clueless about what Malaysians desire.

Everyone of them – Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Najib Abdul Razak, Muhyiddin Yassin, Syed Hamid Albar, Muhammad Muhammad Taib, Hishammuddin Hussein – speaks about the need for the ruling party to adapt to the new environment and aspirations of better educated Malaysians.

Some of them even toss around the word reform like a six-letter Frisbee. But their idea of reform is anchored firmly on their world view and their value system.

That is why every Umno minister shot down the plan of reviewing the Internal Security Act, the law which allows detention without trial. Defending the hardline position, Syed Hamid, the Home Minister, said that preventive laws were still needed for people to live in peace and security.

Other Umno ministers have argued that the silent majority were in favour of tough laws, and that the agitation for a review of the ISA was the work of Opposition politicians and a sprinkling of non-governmental organizations.

They are wide off the mark. A survey by the Merdeka Centre, a polling agency, showed that the majority of Malaysians do not believe that it is necessary to use the ISA to safeguard national security.

Some 3,600 people were polled (49 per cent Malays, 31 per cent Chinese, 8 per cent Indians, 6 per cent Sabah Bumiputeras and 6 per cent Sarawak Bumiputeras). Seventy-per cent of the respondents disagreed that it is “necessary to detain people without trial to safeguard national security.”

When broken down to each race these were the findings: Malays – 71 per cent disagreed that it was necessary to use ISA to safeguard national security; Chinese ( 79 per cent); Indians (90 per cent), Sabah Bumiputera (71 per cent) and Sarawak Bumputera (66 per cent).

In short, the vast majority of Malaysians do not believe that the government was justified in wielding the ISA against the Hindraf 5, Raja Petra Kamaruddin and others.

This sentiment against the detention without trial also explains why Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his comrades in Pakatan Rakyat have been spectacularly successful in drawing large crowds to anti-ISA gatherings.The Opposition gets it.

Yes, Malaysian want peace and stability but they are not going to accept this at any cost. More so from a government that has failed miserably in its attempt to explain why the ISA was used on a journalist and a DAP MP.

Umno does not get it. It is still using all the old assumptions about the country. And this navel gazing disease has spread beyond those who hold ministerial positions.

Umno supreme council member Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik presented a stout defence of the New Economic Policy in Mingguan Malaysia on Sunday.

It was complete with the usual warnings to non-Malays about trying to usurp the special privileges of the Malays.

He also warned Malays against being duped by Anwar’s Malaysian Economic Agenda, stopping short of painting a doomsday scenario for the race if the Opposition icon came to power. Perhaps his view is informed only by his close circles of friends in Umno, maybe his officials in his division in Malacca.

The Merdeka Centre survey shows that 58 per cent Malays say that as original inhabitants of this country, the Malays should be accorded with special rights and privileges while 40 per cent say that people should be accorded the same rights in Malaysia regardless of race or religion.

In short, while the majority of Malays want special privileges for the race to continue, significant numbers have no qualms about treating, other communities equally.

Of more interest to Rahim and his party members is this finding: that 48 per cent of Malays polled felt that the NEP benefits only the rich and politically-connected. Four years ago, 60 per cent Malays felt that the NEP benefited ordinary Malays.

Today this percentage has dropped to 42 per cent.

So the next time Syed Hamid Albar or Rahim Thamby Chik presume that there are speaking on behalf of Malaysians or Malays, they would do well to check their facts.

With every passing day, it appears that the view they represent is not the dominant view of the land.

– The Malaysian Insider

More storms a-brewing for RPK – By Daniel Chandranayagam

Global Voices Online | 06-Sept-2008 – A new legal wrangle might join the criminal defamation charges and defamation law suits sitting on the doorstep of Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK). Newspapers reported recently that the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) and other Muslim bodies had lodged a police report against him for allegedly insulting the Malays, Muslims and Islam.

The articles in question, “I promise to be a good, non-hypocritical Muslim” and “Not all Arabs are descendants of the Prophet”, are found on his now-blocked website, “Malaysia Today” (for mirror site, click here).

Jakim’s director-general, Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, was reported to have said, “The articles were also prejudicial and appeared to be reflective of the voice of a third party who had no understanding of Islam and similar to the western media’s approach.”

Others organisations which lodged reports against RPK were the Federal Territory Religious Department, Islamic Da’ Wah Foundation Malaysia and Federal Territory Islamic Council.

In response, RPK was reported to have said, “I couldn’t be bothered anymore if they call me anti-Islam, anti-Malay, anti-Umno… they can call me anti-God, if they want,”

While some claim that some cabinet members were shocked when they read the articles in question, some commenters on Malaysia Today seem to be of the opinion that the articles in question were not directed at the muslim population in general, but to a specific few.

In August this year, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, was reported to have said that the government was duty-bound to preempt action jeopardizing the nation’s stability. He was quoted as saying, “In this country, it’s all about perception… Then nobody’s going to get angry. It’s not that you can’t discuss, but sensitive things, it’s better behind closed doors rather than openly,”

The past year has seen several defamation cases against, and sedition and criminal defamation investigations into, bloggers and Malaysian netizens. Investigations into these new police reports against RPK could lead to his detention without trial under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act 1962 (English / Bahasa Malaysia). Meanwhile, racial and religious resentment seems to be brewing in the nation.

It comes with little surprise that Malaysia’s ranking with in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index has dropped from 92nd place in 2006 to 124th place in 2007. A recent survey by the Centre for Independent Journalism and the Merdeka Center found 87% of Malaysians polled desiring greater media independence. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Credit Suisse has warned investors to stay away from Malaysia in her current climate.


Merdeka Center