Najib’s plots

By Liew Chin Tong (The Malaysian Insider)

JULY 13 — The unexpectedly favourable approval rating for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is a timely reminder to those who labour hard to see the end of Barisan Nasional rule that public opinion, all the way to the next election, is neither static nor linear. With the resources available to the ruling coalition, it is not impossible that Najib would reverse the currently sliding fortunes of Umno and BN.

In the latest Merdeka Center polls, 65 per cent of Malaysians answered positively to the question “How strongly are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Najib Razak is performing his job as the Prime Minister?” Among Malays and Indians, the figure is even higher at 74 per cent while it was 48 per cent among Chinese.

Barely three months ago, 45 per cent answered the same question positively.

Often, leaders in office gain a certain aura and approval rating, but a well-liked leader does not necessarily translate into votes for the party he leads. (I have been informed that the changes in voting pattern tilted in favour of BN minimally.)

And, an opinion poll is just a snapshot of public opinion at a certain point, which is constantly in a flux and changes according to the political actors or other conditions, internal or external to the political system. The poll during the tenure of former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is a case in point, which dropped from the nineties to forties in a short period of five years.

While Najib has not achieved much substantially and the state of affairs (whether it be the health of democracy or the integrity of the government) continues to deteriorate, it is clear that, as a political opponent, Najib’s no Pak Lah and no push-over.

Najib publicly acknowledged that his father Tun Razak Hussein’s example of turning around the fortunes of the ruling coalition between the 1969 and 1974 elections is vividly remembered and hopefully repeated.

Razak’s series of moves, many of which were unprincipled and authoritarian to say the least, in the intervening years stabilised the government, muffled the opposition, and redefined the game with new rules (from a so-called consociational coalition of the Alliance Party to Umno domination, from a laissez faire economy to one regulated by the New Economic Policy, and from a pro-West stance to neutrality in foreign policy).

Najib tried to do a Razak in Perak in the form of a coup and still suffered from the public’s outcry. But some other moves were far better choreographed and visibly strategic, probably with the possible calling for an early election some time in 2010 in mind.

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