Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is likely to retain his position after next month’s election, according to the latest opinion survey, signaling his popularity among voters.
Ismail, who was in office for 14 months until he called for snap elections, was the number one choice for 19% of respondents in a survey by research-based firm Ilham Centre. The survey was carried out from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30 before parliament was dissolved in October.
During Ismail’s time as prime minister, Malaysia rolled back most of its virus curbs and reopened its borders, driving the economy to expand at the fastest clip in a year during the April-June period. Economic recovery is the most important issue among the majority of respondents in the survey, with 44% saying that restoring and boosting the economy should be the main priority.
Ismail’s party, the United Malays National Organisation, also came out on top in the survey at 31.8%. While the results are a boost for Ismail and UMNO as they prepare for the Nov. 19 general election, gone are the days when political parties and leaders would get more than 50% of the support.
The national vote isn’t due until September 2023, but UMNO wanted it early to capitalize on recent local election victories as well as what they saw as an opposition in disarray. Even so, UMNO is unlikely to get a strong parliamentary majority and will have direct its Barisan Nasional coalition to form alliances with other parties.
Close on Ismail’s heels in the survey was former prime minister Najib Razak from UMNO, who remains popular despite serving a 12 year prison sentence for his role in the multibillion ringgit 1MDB scandal. Najib was tied in third place with the opposition Pakatan Harapan’s prime minister candidate Anwar Ibrahim in the survey. Ismail’s predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin of the Perikatan Nasional coalition came in second with 13% in the survey.
UMNO is intent on redeeming itself following a shock defeat in the 2018 general election after roughly six decades in power due in part to the 1MDB scandal. UMNO returned to the ruling bloc two years later after the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan administration, but the party has led a fragile coalition since then.
Voter turnout could play into the pro-Malay party’s favor this time. About 83% of respondents said they would vote come polling day, but a breakdown of the data showed that those most unsure about whether they would vote were the ethnic Chinese and non-Muslim Bumiputeras — Pakatan Harapan’s typical vote bank.
Source : Bloomberg