Prime Ministers are not normally popular

So, what is going to happen in GE15? Is Muhyiddin and his party going to get wiped out? In 1999, Mahathir was hated so much that very few people thought he was going to win the November 1999 general election. Yet Barisan Nasional won 77% of the seats even though Umno’s share dropped to 37% from 46% previously.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

It is a natural phenomenon that prime ministers in office are not popular and people who are retired or already dead are more popular than those in power or in office. Hence, I am not going to get excited with polls that tell me who is more popular than whom.

After all, is this about winning a popularity contest? And do people not normally judge you after you are gone, whether the verdict is positive or negative?

And let us not forget one fundamental rule of ‘popularity contests’ — and that is people are fickle and the world has a memory of just 100 days. After 100 days, people forget.

Many of you may not remember (or were not born yet) when Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Razak Hussein were prime ministers. At the time of Merdeka, Malaysia’s population was just about 8 million and by 1980 it had grown to 13 million.

Malaysians like Ambiga and those of her ilk love those who oppose the government and hate them when they become the government

Today, Malaysia’s population is more than 32 million. That means many Malaysians alive today are youths or are in the Millennial and Generation Z category and are not older than 40 (at least 22-23 million).

In short, 70% of Malaysians were born after Tun Dr Mahathir became prime minister 40 years ago in 1981.

When Tun Hussein Onn was prime minister, many Malays did not like him. He was said to be a Freemason and anti-Islam. There were rumours his daughter wanted to wear a tudung and that he had forbidden it and he was said to have told his daughter if she insists on wearing a tudung then she has to leave the house.

They also said Tun Hussein’s father, Onn Jaafar, was a traitor. He collaborated with the Japanese during the Japanese occupation (he even wore a Japanese uniform and carried a Samurai sword) while he wanted to open Umno to the non-Malays (when Umno refused he left Umno and set up his own party to fight Umno in the general election).

Today, Hussein Onn is one of the great sons of Malaysia.

Mahathir is both the best and worst Malaysian Prime Minister in history

Mahathir, too, was initially loved. But in the second half of his term in office, he was the most hated prime minister in the entire world. Even the Americans, British, Australians, etc., hated him. Only Gaddafi, Mugabe, Saddam, Castro, and leaders in that category, liked Mahathir and were his friends.

When Mahathir retired and handed power to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysians were so happy they gave Barisan Nasional 91% of the seats in the 2004 general election, the best ever in history. Four years later, the honeymoon ended and Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds majority in the 2008 general election.

Even at the height of the Reformasi era, when Mahathir was at the peak of his ‘hate period’, Barisan Nasional still won 77% of the seats in the 1999 general election. Hence the 2008 general election was a disaster by comparison.

Then Najib Tun Razak became prime minister. Then Mahathir, again, became prime minister. And now Muhyiddin Yassin in the prime minister. And all are hated, just like what happened to the previous prime ministers when they were in office.

Malaysians love, hate, love again, and hate again, their prime ministers

Just five years ago, Muhyiddin was a hero because he opposed the prime minister regarding what happened to 1MDB. Muhyiddin was brave, a towering Malaysian, and a man of honour, virtue and principles, because he opposed the transgressions and wrongdoings of the government and/or the government leaders.

When Muhyiddin got sacked and he started his new party, Bersatu or PPBM, the Malays in the Malay heartland supported it. For the first time since Umno was formed in 1946, the Malays abandoned Umno and supported Pakatan Harapan, mainly due to the efforts of Bersatu, although Mahathir was the party’s main mascot.

Yes, it is the same every time. Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat was ridiculed when he was alive. They mocked him and made fun of his policies. Today, now that he is dead, even DAP hails Nik Aziz as the greatest leader PAS ever had.

DAP and the Chinese hated Nik Aziz when he was alive and now call him the greatest PAS leader when he is dead

Najib is more popular now compared to when he was Prime Minister. Many Malaysians even want him back as prime minister when not too long ago they said some very nasty things about him and his wife, Rosmah Mansor.

I suppose, if they did a poll in Germany today, Adolf Hitler would be most Germans’ choice for president or chancellor.

Sir Winston Churchill led Britain during WWII. He is supposed to be one of the greatest British leaders who ever lived. But in the 1945 general election, Churchill lost. Labour practically wiped out the Conservatives with 393 parliament seats versus only 197 for Churchill’s party. It was unbelievable and a classic case study of how fickle humans can be.

Polls are good to measure the temperature on the ground and to feel the pulse of the rakyat. But do not build your political strategy around polls. If polls are a true reflection of what is going to happen, Churchill and his Conservative Party would have won the July 1945 general election.

It seems almost 50% of Malaysians wants Najib as PM9. Anwar Ibrahim comes in third after Abdul Hadi Awang. Muhyiddin is fifth and above Mahathir and Zahid Hamidi.

The polls said Mahathir was going to lose the 1999 GE and Anwar was supposed to be PM5 on 1st December 1999

Yes, almost 50% of Malaysians want Najib back as prime minister, say the polls. But less than three years ago, Malaysians hated Najib so much that for the first time in history Umno got kicked out. And even Mahathir is more popular than Zahid, say the polls.

So, what is going to happen in GE15? Is Muhyiddin and his party going to get wiped out? In 1999, Mahathir was hated so much that very few people thought he was going to win the November 1999 general election. Yet Barisan Nasional won 77% of the seats even though Umno’s share dropped to 37% from 46% previously.

So, the 1999 polls were not that accurate after all. Based on the temperature on the ground and the pulse of the rakyat, Anwar should have become prime minister on 1st December 1999. However, 22 years later, Anwar is still PM-in-waiting. And he will probably still be PM-in-waiting for another 22 years till he reaches age 96.

By the way, after getting humiliated in the July 1945 general election, Churchill and his Conservative Party made a comeback in the October 1951 general election and the Conservatives manged to stay in power for three terms until 1964.

How the most hated man in Malaysia can turn into the number one choice for prime minister is a classic case study for how fickle humans can be