Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is enjoying a good popularity rating probably at the expense of MCA and MIC.
According to leading political analysts, Najib’s popularity is a major – if not the main – factor in the swing of support for Barisan Nasional (BN).
Political analyst Ong Kian Ming said that the renewed support for BN was due to public confidence in Najib, especially with regard to the various initiatives done by Pemandu (Performance Management and Delivery Unit under the Prime Minister’s Department).
“MIC and MCA have to depend on Najib to win back their seats. It is much harder for the two parties to ‘blackmail’ Umno by drumming up support from the Indians and Chinese not to support Umno candidates,” he said.
Ibrahim Suffian, Merdeka Centre’s programme director, warned of infighting, saying that it “doesn’t help BN as a whole because it gives the impression that things are not well-coordinated”.
“But with a new prime minister comes new and fresh ideas. Najib appeals to undecided voters who look more towards a leader and what he says than to a specific party.”
According to research carried out in December 2010 by Merdeka Centre, Najib’s approval ratings have taken a slight dip to 69% following the announcement of the government’s subsidy cuts for fuel, gas and sugar. In May, his ratings were at a record high of 72%.
The latest survey revealed that the highest approval rating came from Indian respondents.
‘We are still relevant’
MCA central committee member Ti Lian Ker felt his party was also gaining popularity on the ground.
“The fact that MCA is financially independent and a structured political party will ensure that we continue to play an independent role in representing the people, especially the interests of the minority.”
He added that MCA “does not only represent the Chinese community’s interest, but also that of all Malaysians whose voices have been overlooked or disregarded”.
“We have also been approached by Malays and Bumiputeras who have privately confided to us that they are supporting MCA as the moderating force to check any racial or religious extremism.”
Ti was also commenting on Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Nazri’s Abdul Aziz’s warning to MIC and MCA.
Nazir recently said the two parties should not attempt to “blackmail” Umno as the party could move directly to the people and not through MCA.
This was in response to a MCA threat to boycott Nazri in the coming by-election after he labelled MCA a “disgruntled wife” who refuses to divorce BN.
“If MCA is irrelevant, Umno would not have been worried when we faced our internal crisis. Nazri’s opinion is mere personal political posturing for his party,” Ti said.
“Why waste time reacting to him? We will ignore him because we have bigger and more important transformational agendas to support the prime minister.”
MIC secretary-general S Murugesan also shared a similar view, saying that while Najib’s approach appealed across Malaysian society – cutting across racial, geographical and generational banners – “you can’t say that component parties or for that matter the party he represents is irrelevant just because he is popular”.
“Having a popular leader is a definite advantage but we need the political parties and their election machinery to reach out and bring in the voters.”