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Najib, BN on track with firm Malay support

 | June 2, 2012

His approval rating may have dipped slightly but, with Malay support increasing, a few tweakings could see the premier get his two-thirds target.

ANALYSIS

KUALA LUMPUR: Malay support, key to a stronger mandate in the upcoming polls, remains firm with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak which could be enough to bolster his chances of winning bigger in the national elections.

Pollster Merdeka Centre released yesterday a survey indicating an increase of 5% in Malay support from 74% in February to 79% in May, with the majority of the support coming from the lower-income group.

It shows support from this lower income group, who forms the majority of the voters and are predominantly Malays, rising by 4%, a back-to-back increase as shown by the last survey conducted by the same polling house.

The data was gathered just after the Najib government gave out cash to the poor under the BR1M project – and amid a national scandal involving a federal minister’s family – which again lent credence to suggestions that rice bowl issues would precede others in the contest for votes.

The recent announcement of a minimum wage policy could also add to the prime minister’s growing popularity among the poor.

Right direction

This means that Najib has been shooting in the right directions – rolling out the correct policies that can be traced back to as early as Budget 2012 – to woo the electorate in Barisan Nasional’s bid to restore its two-thirds parliamentary majority.

But leaving out the middle class in the last budget may have backfired as the May poll showed a significant dip in support from the middle-income group. It could also suggest that Najib’s political reforms may not have the desired impact.

The survey showed a 2% decrease of households earning RM1,500 to RM3,000 from March, while households earning RM3,000 to RM5,000 revealed a staggering 18% drop.

Analysts say Malaysia’s middle class is increasingly critical of the government and this could influence the dipping support as data were gathered just after the Bersih 3.0 violent poll reform rally took place.

Police allegedly used excessive force to disperse a peaceful assembly that later turned violent and left scores, including media personnel and police officers, injured. Bersih has a largely middle-class following.

Middle-class budget

A separate Merdeka Center poll after the protest showed that 92% of Malaysians want shortcomings in the country’s electoral rolls fixed before the election. The survey also found that only 44% of respondents were confident of a free and fair election process.

But this could easily be undone with a pro-middle class 2013 Budget that Najib said will be tabled on Sept 28. His announcement suggested he could be calling for national polls just after tabling the budget.

Najib, the country’s sixth prime minister, said next year’s budget will focus on “quality and balanced growth”.

A similar tactic was used by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad during the 1999 political upheaval following a split in Umno after he sacked then deputy prime minister and current opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

He tabled what was said to be a “sweetener budget” on Oct 15 and went on to dissolve Parliament on Nov 11. BN went on to win with a landslide victory.


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