‘Figure out why support is down’

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KUALA LUMPUR: Political analysts have rubbished Selangor Umno’s claims the Chinese are to blame for the declining support for Barisan Nasional (BN) in the state, saying the coalition should look deeper into its own shortcomings before taking a simplistic approach. Merdeka Center executive director Ibrahim Suffian said the low support for BN is far from an ethnic issue, pointing out that the recent reduction in fuel subsidy, which led to a 20 sen increase in pump prices, is a significant factor.

“The cut in fuel subsidy has a deep and lasting effect on voters. Studies done before the 12th and 13th general elections showed that such measures shift political support for the party,” Ibrahim told The Malaysian Insider. “Every time the government increases petrol prices, there is a reduction in the prime minister’s popularity,” he said.

Ibrahim was commenting on a Selangor Umno leader’s contention that the Chinese were behind a movement to spread hatred for BN, which had resulted in the community’s decline in support for the coalition.

Responding to the findings of the latest Universiti Malaya Centre for Democracy and Election (UMcedel) survey, Selangor Umno deputy chairman Datuk Abdul Shukor Idrus said the Chinese are “extreme” in their support for Pakatan Rakyat. “I can see they are behind a movement to hate BN. I can see that the Chinese really hate BN,” Shukor had said.

The UMcedel survey, carried out three days after Mohamed Azmin Ali was sworn in as the Selangor menteri besar, revealed that support for Pakatan in Selangor had surged to 43%. However, support for BN declined to 20%, while 28% said they support neither coalition and another 9% refused to respond. A previous survey by UMcedel in May this year showed that support for Pakatan was at 35% while support for BN was 25%.

Independent pollster Merdeka Center is also in the process of collecting the results of a similar survey done nationwide, Ibrahim said, adding that so far, the results seem similar to those of the UMcedel survey.

“It will be out sometime this coming week. In many ways, the result seems similar but it will show the national effect on BN’s support and popularity,” he said.

Ibrahim noted that the spike in support for Pakatan was also because of the conclusion of the “Kajang move” which ended with Mohamed Azmin being appointed Selangor menteri besar. “It marked the end of the divisive infighting in Pakatan that was played out in the public eye. Pakatan-leaning voters, who were turned off by the whole Selangor crisis, came back because the problem subsided.”

Besides that, from 2005 onwards, Umno has been moving towards the right end of the political spectrum, which is Malay nationalism and a more conservative brand of Islam, which has driven a wedge between the party and non-Muslim voters, he said.

“The big question is what made these voters vote overwhelmingly for BN in the 2004 general election and then turn their backs on it in 2008?

“The Umno they voted for in 2004 was different from the Umno in 2008, following unfulfilled promises, hurtful statements and misinterpretation of the expectations of voters,” Ibrahim said.

He urged Umno in Selangor to figure out why it has lost support, reminding the party that the answer is not as simplistic as one race completely turning its back on the party. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 27, 2014.