PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s 67% approval rating, in a recent poll conducted by Merdeka Center, was a “bit too optimistic”, says a political analyst.
National Council of Professors fellow Jeniri Amir believes that if the survey included respondents from east Malaysia, the ratings would have dropped due to the “Allah” issue.
The matter surrounding the Arabic term for God has resurfaced following the government’s decision to appeal a High Court ruling allowing Christians to use the term. Sabahans and Sarawakians see no issue with “Allah” being used by both Muslims and non-Muslims.
“There is also widespread discontent online over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economy,” he told FMT, adding that these two issues were the “mother of all issues”.
Jeniri also said there was a huge difference between Muhyiddin’s popularity and that of the rest of his government.
“Even if Muhyiddin is popular, it does not mean that the government or the other Cabinet members are.”
He said what ultimately would determine the support for the current administration was how it managed the pandemic and the economy.
The recent surge in Covid-19 cases, he said, was “not a good sign for the government”.
“People see the government’s strategy as a failure and that might cost it the election.”
However, Jeniri said that Muhyiddin would have been able to score points with the Petroleum Sales Tax, referring to the resolution of the sales tax dispute between national oil company Petronas and Sarawak.
The direct aid provided to the people, especially for the B40, he said, would also work in Muhyiddin’s favour.
Merdeka Center found that Muhyiddin’s approval rating remains stable at 67%, despite concerns over the economy and the pandemic.
The survey conducted from March 31 to April 12 involved some 2,111 voters in the peninsula, with 64% of respondents being Malays, 28% Chinese and 8% Indians.
It said Muhyiddin’s support among Malay voters remained strong at 83%, although the backing from Chinese and Indians was lower at 30% and 66% respectively.
Oh Ei Sun, a fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said the high Malay support for Muhyiddin indicates that a Malay-centric government is indeed preferred by Malays.
He said he was surprised that the Chinese and, to a lesser extent, Indian support “were that high”, despite the administration being Malay-centric.
Oh went on to say that with such ratings, Muhyiddin’s government should be confident enough not to prolong the emergency beyond Aug 1.
“They should be confident enough to call for an election as soon as the pandemic subsides.”
However, Oh disagreed with Jeniri on whether the outcome would have been different if Sabahans and Sarawakians were included in the poll.
“Socioeconomic concerns trump everything else, especially in east Malaysia. So long as Muhyiddin can deliver the aid, his support will remain high,” he said.
He added that it would be useful to compare the result of this poll with the support previous leaders had received.
“Former prime minister Najib Razak had also enjoyed high support in polls before the 13th general election (GE13) in May 2013.”