Saturday, August 02, 2008

Poll: Malaysia PM's popularity falls to new low

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Public confidence in Malaysia's political and economic future has dwindled dramatically in recent months, with the prime minister's popularity hitting an all-time low, a survey showed Friday.

The independent Merdeka Center research firm found that only 28 percent of registered voters polled in July felt encouraged by the country's direction, a severe fall from 68 percent in late February.

The center said its nationwide survey of 1,030 adults was conducted by telephone July 4-14 and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Fifty-four percent were displeased with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's performance, compared to 42 percent who were satisfied — Abdullah's worst approval rating since he took office in 2003, said the center's director Ibrahim Suffian.

The results follow a public backlash over the government's decision to hike gasoline prices by 41 percent in June and persistent uncertainties after Abdullah's ruling coalition lost its longtime political dominance in March general elections.

"People feel bad about economic issues. They are concerned that the political bickering in this country is not helping to generate solutions," Ibrahim told The Associated Press.

Only 8 percent of respondents said current consumer prices were acceptable and 20 percent expect the economy to improve next year, highlighting the impact of inflation that spiraled to 7.7 percent in June. It was the steepest climb in more than 27 years.

Abdullah announced Friday the government will set a new retail price for gasoline once every month starting Sept. 1, with a subsidy to keep the price lower than the global market rate.

In another blow to the government, 66 percent of respondents thought that a recent sodomy accusation against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was politically motivated to disrupt his career, the Merdeka Center said.

Anwar insists the accusation by his 23-year-old former aide was part of a government plot, but Abdullah and other leaders deny any conspiracy. Police completed their investigation into the allegation Thursday, but government prosecutors have not announced if Anwar would be charged.

Only 11 percent of the Merdeka Center's respondents believed the sodomy accusation, compared with 55 percent who thought it was false. The others were unsure or did not respond. Only 31 percent were confident that police would handle the case in a fair and transparent manner.

Poll: Malaysia PM's popularity falls to new low
International Herald Tribune, France