Approval ratings down for Mahathir, Pakatan Harapan govt in Merdeka Center poll

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan coalition is seen to be struggling recently, with voters being dissatisfied with the way it is handling bread and butter issues that has pushed up the cost of living. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's approval rating has plunged to 46 per cent from 71 per cent recorded last August, pollster Merdeka Center said yesterday, less than two weeks before his party marks its first year in power.

The survey also shows that only 39 per cent of Malaysian voters gave his Pakatan Harapan (PH) government positive ratings in a nationwide poll done last month.

The figure is almost as low as the 34 per cent vote share former prime minister Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional coalition obtained in last year's general election.

Last August, around 66 per cent of Malaysians surveyed were happy with the PH government.

"The decline in public support for the administration can also be seen in the number of voters who felt the 'country was headed in the wrong direction'," the pollster said in a statement. The proportion rose from 24 per cent last August to 46 per cent last month.

Altogether, 1,204 registered voters took part in the survey and they composed of Malays (52 per cent), Chinese (29 per cent), Indians (7 per cent), and other races.

The pollster said the likely factors for the decline are: the state of the economy as perceived by ordinary consumers, the perceived performance of the administration, and concerns over Malay rights and privileges as well as fair treatment of the other races in Malaysia.

  • Key indicators

  • In a nationwide survey carried out by Merdeka Center in Malaysia last month:

    •39 per cent of voters gave the Pakatan Harapan government positive ratings, down from 66 per cent last August.

    •46 per cent said they were satisfied with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's performance as Prime Minister, compared with 71 per cent in August last year.

    •Public satisfaction with the government's management of the economy is 40 per cent, a dip from 60 per cent in August.

    •34 per cent believe that the country is heading in the right direction compared with 55 per cent in August. And only 24 per cent of Malays believe this.

Public satisfaction in the government's management of the economy also dropped from 60 per cent last August to 40 per cent last month, the pollster added.

Just 24 per cent of Malay voters felt the country was headed in the right direction, down from 49 per cent - a strong sign that the government needs to reassure Malays their needs are being addressed.

But 67 per cent of all voters agreed that PH needed more time to fulfil its election pledges.

Still, concerns over unfavourable economic conditions and inflation remained high at 54 per cent while concerns over racial matters such as the preservation of Malay rights and fair treatment of others were significant at 23 per cent.

On the other hand, concerns over corruption had declined from 33 per cent to 23 per cent.

"The reality is PH has not really delivered on its key promises other than the Najib trial," said Professor James Chin, director of Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania.

He warned that PH needed to stabilise its Malay support or risk creating "major problems" for Dr Mahathir's successor Anwar Ibrahim.

The PH coalition is seen to be struggling recently, with voters being dissatisfied with its handling of bread and butter issues and the rise in the cost of living.

Almost seven out of 10 respondents also disagreed with its plan to abolish the death penalty while more than half were against the scrapping of exams for Primary 1 to 3 and the introduction of sugar taxes.

Najib, on the other hand, appears to be enjoying a surge in popularity, despite 42 charges of money-laundering, corruption and abuse of power being slapped on him. This is particularly so among working-class Malays.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2019, with the headline Approval ratings down for Mahathir, Pakatan Harapan govt in Merdeka Center poll. Subscribe