By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Dec 20: Lack of progress in fulfilling election promises and no marked improvement concerning economic livelihood of the people are causing the public to lose patience. And this, in turn, has rapidly plunged the approval rating of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government, warned former Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president Rafizi Ramli.
According to opinion polls cited by Rafizi, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s performance rating has dropped to 53 per cent in a survey conducted two weeks ago. It was 72 per cent in June this year.
“There is a consistent 20 per cent drop across all races. Malays (from 66 per cent to 45 per cent), Chinese (from 87 per cent to 65 per cent) and Indians (from 84 per cent to 64 per cent),” he shared in a commentary posted on his blog yesterday.
“In some states, the newly elected Menteris Besar, whom some of the sampled respondents could not name correctly, got a higher approval rating than the prime minister.”
Observing that the euphoria seemed to derail the focus of the PH administration, he warned that the deflation — from the euphoria to disillusionment — could be severe, if not appropriately managed.
“There are signs that the euphoria has gone somewhat sour. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but someone must bell the cat,” he said.
Rafizi, who heads PKR-linked pollster Invoke Malaysia, pointed out that the most often repeated justifications for the plunging approval rating were PH’s failure to win a sizeable chunk of the Malay votes in the last 14th General Election (GE14).
Nationally, he revealed that PH achieved less than 30 per cent of the share of Malay votes.
“Proponents of this theory went on to theorise that to defend the PH administration, the prime minister must be given a free hand to do what is necessary to strengthen PH’s Malay votes.
“This includes efforts to bring in ex-Umno MPs to shore up Bersatu’s number in Parliament. The prime minister seems to argue today that the ex-Umno MPs will bring the rural Malay support with them. This is good for PH in the battle for Malay’s hearts and minds,” he said.
However, Rafizi said that PH still won the majority in Parliament due to enough Malay swing votes in marginal seats across the country.
“They voted for PH primarily due to its economic promises to make their lives better and not because PH has somewhat convinced them that we are more ‘Malay’ than Umno or Pas,” he stressed.
He argued that the racial and religious dimensions would always exist in Malaysian society as there were still ethnic and religious considerations among the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians (maybe less in Sabah and Sarawak).
“As political parties, what we can do is to articulate middle grounds and focus on policies so that the public discourse revolves around voters’ livelihood. I repeated during the GE14 that PH could only win if we convince enough Malays that a change of government could lower down prices, create more jobs and increase wages.
“We can never become more Malay than Umno or more politically Islamic than Pas. Race and religion are Umno’s and Pas’ strength; the economic platform is our platform. True enough, the results of GE14 validated this,” he added.
In spite of all the efforts to show Bersatu carried the Malay torch within, Rafizi highlighted that gestures, however, did not bring significant Malay votes to PH.
“Bersatu got the lowest share of Malay votes among all PH parties. Thankfully, PH still managed to win enough parliamentary seats because there were enough Malay economic voters who were ready to give it a chance, which explains the rapidly plunging approval rating for the federal government,” he explained.
From the first post-GE14 survey until this month’s poll, he pointed out that reducing higher cost of living and fulfilling election promises tops the key concern of the voters across the board.
“We can’t fulfil all the promises immediately within the 100 days (trust me, the public does not even expect that), yet at the very least the PH administration must be seen to be solely focused on laying the groundwork to fulfil them (election promises) at some point in the future,” he said.
He also admitted that things got worse in some areas since PH took over, including late payments of living allowances to Felda settlers, the sudden removal of aids, and the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN).
“The public does not expect a miracle; they expect efforts. They need to see our focus is fixated on making their lives better. Instead, more often than not, we give excuses why we could not deliver,” he added.
Rafizi reminded that the PH government could achieve more if they focus on delivering economically and making sure multiracial Malaysians get a fair treatment in every sphere of their life, regardless of race and religion.
He also cautioned the PH leadership that the public was disgusted with the recent wave of Umno MPs switching sides.
“To swing voters, it is yet another evidence that the PH administration is more focused on internal power dynamics rather than focusing on delivering on our election promises. We also dilute our reform credentials in the eyes of PH hardcore supporters.
“To those who argue that the orchestrated mass migration of Umno MPs is necessary for strengthening PH’s grip on Malay voters, there is no indication this is happening. In fact, it provokes angrier sentiment against PH among the Umno-Pas supporters,” he observed.
He urged PH to go back to its election pledges and demonstrate seriousness in making life better for the ordinary Malaysians. — DayakDaily