Friday, 26 April 2013

Malaysia election: Opposition leads in public support, says poll

P.140 Segamat (13th General Election on May 5, 2013)
46,262 (20,093/43.43% Malays; 21,393/46.24% Chinese; 4,641/10.03% Indians)
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Malaysia election: Opposition leads in public support, says poll
Friday, Apr 26, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR - Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim holds a slight edge over Malaysian premier Najib Razak ahead of a hotly anticipated election showdown on May 5, according to the latest opinion poll.
Anwar was considered the more qualified prime minister choice by 43 per cent of voters, compared to 39 per cent for Najib, who is battling to stave off the biggest electoral threat to the ruling coalition in its 56 years in power.
The survey released late Thursday by the University of Malaya's Centre for Democracy and Elections also found that 42 per cent of respondents preferred the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact) policy manifesto.
Thirty-six per cent preferred that of the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition, while 22 per cent were undecided, it said.
"It's neck-to-neck. That's very clear," said Redzuan Othman, director of the centre, adding that the opposition was "gaining ground" in public support.
However, large blocks of voters remained undecided on key points in the survey, conducted earlier in April on more than 1,400 respondents.
Redzuan said the margin of error was 3.5 percentage points.
"The next seven days will be very, very crucial. Those will indicate whether Barisan Nasional can make up for the lost ground," Redzuan said.
Malaysia is bracing for what is widely expected to be its closest election ever, with the opposition looking to capitalise on voter disaffection over corruption, rising living costs and crime, and authoritarianism under Barisan.
It handed the coalition - which is controlled by Najib's ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) - the worst setback in its history in 2008 elections.
A Malaysian government spokesman said it was "difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions" from the poll.
"The prime minister is cautiously optimistic of gaining a good working majority in the election," he told AFP in an email.
The charismatic Anwar was once heir-apparent to UMNO but was ousted in 1998 and jailed for six years after a power struggle.
He joined the long-hapless opposition after his release in 2004, dramatically reversing its fortunes by uniting its divided main camps.
Amid pressure for reform, Najib has made limited liberalisation gestures and is campaigning on a promise of stability and continued economic growth.
The opposition, meanwhile, pledges to attack rampant corruption, create a more open democracy and raise incomes.
Despite the survey findings, observers say Pakatan faces an uphill climb overcoming pro-incumbent structural biases built into the electoral system by Barisan over the decades.
Pakatan won 47 per cent of the nationwide vote in 2008, but just over a third of parliament.