SANDAKAN POLLS | Malaysians may feel pessimistic about the country’s economic performance, but a “clean” Pakatan Harapan administration will eventually turn things around, assures Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Referring to the latest government approval ratingsreleased by pollster Merdeka Center, Lim said it was a good reminder for Harapan to work hard to undo problems left by their predecessors…
Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said although the Pakatan Harapan administration’s approval rating had taken a hit, voters are now less worried about corruption.
“In various surveys conducted after Harapan formed the federal government, corruption – which was once a cancer that stunted Malaysia’s development – is no longer the main issue concerning the public.
“We should be proud that Malaysia does not bear the stigma of a kleptocracy like before,” she said in a statement.
Last week, Merdeka Center released its latest survey results which suggested that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his administration’s approval rating was currently 46 percent and 39 percent respectively.
Historically, Merdeka Center surveys tend to show that the strength of the economy is the main concern on the minds of voters.
Of the respondents who believed that the country was moving in the wrong direction, corruption was not cited as a major concern.
Conversely, of the respondents who believed the country was moving in the right direction, fighting corruption was cited as a reason for this.
However, Zuraida, who is also PKR vice-president, acknowledged that there was unhappiness over the present administration, but stressed that a lot of the problems faced by the country today were legacy problems left by the previous administration.
“Certainly, it will take time to resolve the problems, especially with the economy,” she said.
She believed that Malaysia, under Mahathir’s helm, was on the right course and urged the public to continue working with the federal government to develop the country.
PETALING JAYA: Policy analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan of PPBM has urged government leaders to give priority to the welfare of the people and alleviate their hardship. The common folk, who voted for a change in government last year, must also be assisted, he said.
“This includes the small time contractors and rural entrepreneurs, as well as the activists,” he said today in a statement responding to remarks by PKR president Anwar Ibrahim about a Malay backlash to the new government led by Pakatan Harapan.
Anwar said the backlash arose because Pakatan Harapan had “succumbed too much to pressure from the urban elite and civil society”. He had not heard the government address poverty and inequality.
Yesterday, the polling firm Merdeka Center released results of a survey which showed that only 39% of Malaysians gave a positive rating to the PH government, less than two weeks before it marks its first year in power.
Wan Saiful reminded the ruling coalition that a majority of Malaysians lived outside the “Bangsar bubble” a term he used last year to describe the upper-middle-class urban areas, whose residents he said tended to champion for human rights and judicial reform among others.
However, “it is their views and support (from those outside the Bangsar bubble) that will determine the current government’s popularity.”
The Merdeka Center survey indicated that perceptions over the economy, governance and concerns among Malays, as well as treatment of the races in Malaysia, were among factors that could have contributed to the decline in support from the people.
TheNut Graph | KUALA LUMPUR, 14-July-2010 : The Barisan Nasional (BN) will continue to rule Sarawak for at least two more state elections, said a Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) political scientist.
Citing the latest Merdeka Center for Opinion Research poll on Malaysian political values, Faisal S Hazis said the perception that the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) could take control of Sarawak was unjustified.
“Sarawak will remain with the BN for one, maybe two more decades,” Faisal, who is Unimas’s political and international relations department head, said today at a Kuala Lumpur forum by Merdeka Center to present the poll results.
He said despite doubts about the BN’s grip on Sarawak, especially after the Sibu by-election, 64.1% of the Sarawakian respondents in the poll indicated support for the BN.
This, he noted, was an increase by 1.1% of the popular vote that the BN secured in the 2006 state election.
Sarawak must hold a state election by the middle of 2011, although talk has been rife that it will be called earlier.
The BN has consistently won at least 55% of the popular vote in Sarawak since 1974. It won 71.2% of the popular vote in the 2001 election. However, this dropped to 62.9% in 2006. Still, voter support remains substantial.
Massive swing needed
Faisal said the 2006 election data showed that there were only 12 marginal seats out of 71 in Sarawak.
“If there was a 5% vote swing towards the opposition, it would only give them five more seats. A 10% vote swing would give the opposition 12 more seats and a total of 21 seats in the state assembly,” said Faisal.
However, for the opposition to capture 36 seats and take over the government, it would require a vote swing of 20%, which Faisal categorised as “ridiculously impossible” by the next election.
Faisal also said Sarawak’s size and terrain was challenging for the opposition, especially since the state government controlled most of the resources. An average-sized constituency such as Krian is about the size of Singapore, whereas the largest constituency, Belaga, is the size of Pahang.
Faisal said an opposition candidate told him that just to bring supporters to polling centres on polling day cost RM50,000.
Desire for change
However, all is not gloomy for the opposition. While between 70% and 80% of respondents had a positive perception of the BN, many of them were at the same time skeptical of the government.
“More than half believed that the government’s aid would not reach the needy, while almost half felt that the government is not spending money prudently,” said Faisal.
He added that a high percentage, 65.7%, said they were having trouble making ends meet. Many respondents also wanted to see an increased level of democracy, and for the government to be free from corruption.
There were also some positive indicators for the opposition. This included endorsement of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s leadership; increasing popularity of the new media; and a strong sense of skepticism and distrust towards the ruling party.
“If a unified opposition can exploit the people’s grievances and their desire for change, the coming state election could become a feisty affair,” said Faisal.
Less racial politics
Faisal noted that racial politics was not played out in Sarawak as much as in Peninsular Malaysia. “All the BN parties in Sarawak are multiracial parties. So are all the opposition parties,” he said.
“This is because Sarawak is a multiracial state. A race-based political party which focuses only on one race would not survive.”
Faisal, however, pointed out that racial and religious issues “imported” from Peninsular Malaysia could be divisive.
He cited the “Allah” controversy as one example. “In Sarawak, Christians have been using ‘Allah’ for ages, so it’s a non-issue. But during the Sibu by-election, the opposition managed to exploit the issue by saying that the electorate should teach peninsular Malaysians to be as accommodating as the bumiputera in Sarawak. It played an important role in moving the fence-sitters,” he said.
The Merdeka Center survey, which looked at voters’ views about unity, government spending, interest in politics and race-based affirmative action, polled 3,141 adults nationwide between January and April 2010. Out of that figure, 518 were Sarawakians.
TheNut Graph | 14-July-2010 – A mere 11.2 percent of Sarawakians are willing to vote for the opposition, according to a survey by independent pollsters Merdeka Centre in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).
This may dismiss belief that the recent Sibu by-election, which saw a surprise win by opposition DAP, was a precursor for more BN defeats in the upcoming state elections which must be called before mid-2011.
The survey of 518 Sarawakians – comprising of respondents reflecting the state ethnic makeup – showed that 64.1 percent of respondents were willing to vote BN, which is an 1.1 percent more than the popular vote received by the coalition during the 2006 state elections.
Though the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition’s figurehead Anwar Ibrahim (right) may be a top draw in the peninsula, the survey results suggest he wields little influence in Sarawak, with only 21.1 percent of respondents endorsing his leadership.
Moreover, there appears to be a general negative impression of the opposition, with most citing a lack of unity (33.6 percent), followed by lack of ideas on economic development (26.6), corruption (11.4), weak administration (7.5) and weak leadership (4.8).
Meanwhile, the survey saw between 70 to 80 percent having a positive perception towards BN’s policies and actions, albeit recognising that it has weaknesses, which include poor leadership, intra-party rivalry and money politics.
20% swing needed for Pakatan win
However, the surveyors noted that it was possible that Pakatan could pull an upset, provided that it manages a massive 20 percent swing in the popular votes which would result in 30 more seats to the current six.
A possible opposition swing could be fueled by an increasing popularity of the alternative media and increasing distrust towards BN, with a third of respondents believing that government programs only benefit the rich and half believing that government aid never reaches the needy.
Another possible problem for BN was the significant number of respondents who are seeking myriad changes such as increased levels of democracy (31.5 percent), less graft (21), a better education system (19.5), high income levels (18) and lower crime rates (14.9).
As proven during the Sibu by-election, the opposition can count on the support of the Chinese voters, as 36 percent of Chinese respondents said they were willing to lend them support.
However, 33.3 percent of Chinese voters identified themselves as fence-sitters.
On the economy, 45 percent of respondents are not satisfied with the economy but 59 percent are optimistic with the future outlook of the economy, while 65 percent feel secure of their jobs.
Similar to earlier survey results in Peninsula Malaysia, Chinese Sarawakians are the least optimistic about the economy while Muslim bumiputras are the most optimistic.
BN will win next 2-3 state polls
Speaking to reporters at briefing on the survey results, Unimas lecturer Dr Faisal S Hazis believe that the BN will win the upcoming state polls hands down.
“I expect BN to be strong for another two to three elections, but the campaigning will be feisty,” he said.
Elaborating, Faisal said opposition coalition face a complicated scenerio where Dayak professionals were sympathetic towards PKR but to a much lesser extent favours the Chinese-dominated DAP.
“Racial politics is not played up in Sarawak with all four BN component parties being multi-racial, but there are elements of racial politics imported from the peninsula,” he said.
The Malaysian Insider | KUALA LUMPUR, 14-July-2010 — A five per cent voter swing in Election 2008 saw Pakatan Rakyat (PR) take charge of five state governments in peninsular Malaysia, but the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) rivals in Sarawak will need four times that to unseat the ruling front.
Political analyst Faizal Hazis said today that PR’s dream of taking over Putrajaya by capturing Sarawak in the coming state polls, widely expected to be held soon, is “ridiculous”.
Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud has been ruling the state under the BN banner for the past 29 years.
The Opposition bloc in Malaysia’s largest state only has eight out of 71 seats in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly.
The DAP holds the lion’s share with six seats, with one seat each belonging to PKR and Sarawak National Party (Snap).
“To change the state government, it will need at least a 20 per cent voter swing…which equals 36 seats,” the Universiti Sarawak (Unimas) department head of political and international relations told reporters here today.
The lecturer recently teamed up with the independent Merdeka Center to present an analysis of voting behaviour in Sarawak.
In his paper titled “Between Continuity and Change”, Faisal noted there were 12 “marginal seats” or those that showed a greater likelihood of falling to PR.
With the eight already in PR’s hands, the new total would “still not be enough to deny the ruling party a two-thirds majority’ in the state legislative assembly, he said.
While Sarawak’s politics is not racially-driven, Faisal said the electorate had generally voted along party lines.
The voters, especially the Bumiputera, want a party that can fulfil their development needs.
“Generally, this means Barisan Nasional,” he said, adding that the ruling front’s traditional strategy of dishing out development projects will likely remain an effective tool in ensuring it wins substantial votes.
Certain short-term factors could still tip the scales in PR’s favour, Faisal said, pointing to the Bersih and Hindraf rallies in West Malaysia and more recently, the DAP’s “Allah” campaign in the Sibu by-election two months ago as examples.
But it may not be enough, as voters in Sarawak still look at the candidate’s credentials in elections.
A recent public opinion survey by the Merdeka Center showed 64 per cent of the electorate firmly backing the BN, because they believed the ruling coalition was capable of delivering reforms.
But both Faisal and the Merdeka Center admitted the survey was not definitive.
“The poll did not ask Sarawakians whether they wanted Taib Mahmud to be CM though,” Faisal quipped.
The Malaysian Insider | KUALA LUMPUR, 14-July-2010 – A public opinion poll has predicted Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) will win big in state polls expected soon, suggesting a recent DAP win in the Sibu by-election two months ago did not indicate waning support for Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud’s 29 year rule.
Sixty-four per cent out of 518 respondents polled by the independent Merdeka Center backed BN for the next state elections, a one per cent increase from the last elections in Sarawak in 2006.
However, several factors could still swing the vote in favour of the Opposition, said the head of politics and international relations in Universiti Sarawak’s (Unimas) social science faculty.
In his paper titled “Between Continuity and Change”, Unimas’s Dr Faisal Hazis, who worked with the Merdeka Center to provide an analysis of the survey results, noted the growing popularity of the alternative media among the urban electorate and an increased appetite to see a higher level of democratic practice in government as key forces that could tilt the balance.
“If the local opposition parties can get their act together to form a unified coalition and exploit the grievances and desire for change, the coming state elections could be a feisty affair,” he briefed reporters here today.
Faisal pointed out that while the Chinese community felt they were being sidelined by the ruling front, the Bumiputera voters in Sarawak strongly identified with the BN.
A high 65.6 per cent of respondents were confident they could keep their jobs for the next year while 59.2 per cent were upbeat about the country’s future, even though almost half of those polled expressed a general dissatisfaction with the economy.
More than two thirds of those polled viewed BN in a positive light.
While they were not blind to the coalition’s shortcomings — 68 per cent cited weak political leadership, intra-party rivalry (66 per cent), and money politics (61.4 per cent) — they also generally believed BN was capable of change.
Notably, 65.9 per cent wanted the government to dissolve the affirmative action policy, which is geared at protecting Malay/ Bumiputera interest.
More than half of the respondents did not believe that government aid would reach the needy with 37.1 per cent saying government programmes only benefited the rich.
Close to half said the government was not careful in spending public money and nearly three quarters cited corruption as a major problem in the country.
In contrast, only 11.2 per cent strongly backed the Opposition, with 36 per cent support from the Chinese community.
However, about one-third of the respondents appeared to be open to voting for the Opposition.
About a third of the respondents attributed their poor perception of the Opposition to the lack of unity among the different parties, while 26.6 per cent said the BN rival lacked ideas on economic development.
But Dr Faisal noted that 21.1 per cent of the respondents saw PKR de facto chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s leadership in a positive light.
He put it down to the growing popularity of the alternative media — namely the Internet and partisan newspapers — among a significant portion of the electorate (almost 20 per cent) in the more urban seats in the state, especially from the Dayak professionals; as well as scepticism and mistrust of the BN from some quarters.
In his analysis, Dr Faisal said the survey results disproved the myth that Sarawakian voters were parochial in their approach to politics, but showed instead that the local electorate took a healthy interest in national issues.
While the odds were heavily stacked against the Opposition, he did not discount the possibility of a sudden swing in their favour, noting the DAP’s successful campaign leading up to the May by-election.
“Sarawak is more accommodating [on racial and religious issues] than in the Peninsula,” he said, referring to how the DAP had played up the “Allah” dispute ongoing in West Malaysia by asking the locals to “help us teach Peninsula to be more accommodating”.
If the Opposition could exploit such current issues again when the state elections come around, the results “would not be as what the polls show”.
If not, the Opposition may have to wait for at least another “one or two decades” to break the BN’s stranglehold on Malaysia’s largest state, said Dr Faisal.
Bernama Online | KUALA LUMPUR, 13-July-2010 — The Sibu by-election held last May raised some doubts as to Barisan Nasional’s grip over Sarawak but recent poll conducted by an independent body has proved otherwise.
According to the survey by the Merdeka Center, the findings of which were released Tuesday, most Sarawakians still support the BN.
“A total of 64.1 percent of the respondents threw their support behind the BN, an increase of 1.1 percent over the popular votes received by the ruling party in the 2006 state election,” said Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) lecturer Faisal S. Hazis, who had conducted the survey titled “Between Continuity and Change: An Analysis of Voting Behavior in Sarawak 2010” for Merdeka Center.
Speaking at a media briefing here, Faisal said the survey conducted from January to April involved 518 respondents in Sarawak aimed at assessing their perception towards both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition parties.
“In terms of perception towards BN, between 70 per cent to 80 per cent of those surveyed said they had positive perception of the BN’s policies and actions.
However, he said respondents pointed out several shortcomings in the BN, such as internal rivalry and money politics.
“A total of 65.9 percent wanted the BN to take affirmative action (to resolve the problems) while 74 percent of them believed that corruption was a major problem in the country,” he said.
Faisal said only 11.2 per cent of the respondents admitted that they were willing to vote for the opposition.
There were also negative impressions towards the opposition by respondents such as lack of unity, lack of ideas on economic development, corruption (11.4 per cent), weakness in administration (7.5 per cent), and weak leadership (4.8 per cent).
On factors influencing voting behavior in Sarawak, Faisal said 36.9 per cent of the respondents chose contesting parties as the main factor, particularly the ones that could bring about development to the state.
“The other factors were issues related to the voters while choice of candidates remained as the third most important factor,” he said.
Faisal also said it remained an uphill task for the opposition to take over the state as they needed to capture a minimum of 36 out of the 71 seats in the state.
“But there are only 12 marginal seats,” he added.
At present, the opposition only holds nine state seats in Sarawak, with DAP (6), PKR (1) and Independent (2).
The Malaysian Insider | KUALA LUMPUR, 09-July-2010 — A disconnect between the government and the public has resulted in a majority of Malaysians feeling powerless in bringing about change in the country, a new poll of voters has found.
A recent survey by the independent Merdeka Center showed that the majority of Malaysians felt that they were incapable of bringing positive reforms to the country.
According to the survey conducted from January to April this year, 66 per cent of some 3,000 respondents believed that they had no say over issues raised in the survey.
Issues touched on by the survey included those such as national unity, integrity, democratic participation, and affirmative action.
The outcome of the survey suggests that the Najib administration has yet to effectively convince the public on its key policies.
Since taking over the government in April last year, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has laid down various ambitious reform plans including the National Key Results Areas (NKRA), which aims to, among other targets, eradicate corruption and forge national unity.
Merdeka Center director Ibrahim Suffian speculated that the sense of being powerless could be the result of government’s failure to conduct programmes that reflect the wishes of the public.
“A lot of things that the government have been doing might not reflect what the people want,” Ibrahim told The Malaysian Insider.
“Despite being able to vote, the people do not see how they can exert influence on the leadership. In many places, they still feel disconnected from the leaders,” he added.
Ibrahim said the survey reflected the wishes for greater public consultation on public policy formulation.
The poll outcome also showed that the majority of Malaysians were sceptical about government spending ,with 53 per cent of respondents believing that public funds were not being spent prudently.
About 63 per cent of the respondents also believed that government assistance would not reach the needy.
The survey also revealed that 72 per cent of youths aged 19 to 24 were not interested in politics, while only 52 per cent of respondents above 50 took an interest.
However, democracy was not an issue that resonated among Malaysians, with just 27 per cent of the respondents listing “making the country more democratic” as the most important change they wanted to see in the country.
Improving the education system was the second most important issue, with 20 per cent of the respondents wishing for it to become world class.