KUALA LUMPUR — April 26, 2019: Fewer than half of Malaysians approve of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, an opinion poll showed today, as concerns over rising costs and racial matters plague his administration nearly a year after taking office.
The survey, conducted in March by independent pollster Merdeka Centre, showed that only 46 per cent of voters surveyed were satisfied with Mahathir, a sharp drop from the 71 per cent he received last August.
Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan coalition won a stunning election victory in May 2018, ending the previous government’s more than 60-year rule.
But his administration has since been criticised for failing to deliver on promised reforms and protecting the rights of majority ethnic Malay Muslims.
Of 1,204 survey respondents, 46 per cent felt that the country was headed in the wrong direction, up from 24 per cent in August 2018, the Merdeka Centre said in a statement. Just 36 per cent said they approved of the ruling government.
High living costs remained the top most concern among Malaysians, with just 40 per cent satisfied with the government’s management of the economy, the survey showed.
It also showed mixed responses to Pakatan Harapan’s proposed reforms.
Some 69 per cent opposed plans to abolish the death penalty, while respondents were sharply divided over proposals to lower the minimum voting age to 18, or to implement a sugar tax.
“In our opinion, the results appear to indicate a public that favours the status quo, and thus requires a robust and coordinated advocacy efforts in order to garner their acceptance of new measures,” Merdeka Centre said.
The survey also found 23 per cent of Malaysians were concerned over ethnic and religious matters.
Some groups representing Malays have expressed the fear that affirmative-action policies favouring them in business, education and housing could be taken away and criticised the appointments of non-Muslims to key government posts.
Last November, the government reversed its pledge to ratify a UN convention against racial discrimination, after a backlash from Malay groups.
Earlier this month, Pakatan Harapan suffered its third successive loss in local elections since taking power, which has been seen as a further sign of waning public support.
Despite the decline, most Malaysians – 67 per cent – agreed that Mahathir’s government should be given more time to fulfil its election promises, the centre said.
This included a majority of Malay voters who were largely more critical of the new administration. — Reuters