News

Malaysian PM's Image Boost Could Lead to Early Elections

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) inspects party delegates during an annual general assembly in Kuala Lumpur (December 2011 file photo)
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) inspects party delegates during an annual general assembly in Kuala Lumpur (December 2011 file photo)
Luke Hunt

In Malaysia, recent opinion polls indicate Prime Minister Najib Razak's approval rating is rising after a series of political victories.  The prime minister's political fortunes are fueling speculation he will soon call an early election.

With Najib's approval rating at an all time high of 69 percent, this week his government formally abandoned the dreaded Internal Security Act (ISA), which allowed for detention without trial. And at a recent summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) he succeeded in winning support for his Global Movement of Moderates to help combat religious extremism and terrorism.

Najib has moved to improve relations with the West, culminating in the current visit to Malaysia by British Prime Minister David Cameron, the first since John Major came here in 1993, and an announcement that both countries plan to double bilateral trade.

Din Merican, an Associate Fellow with the Malaysian Institute for Economic Research cites several reasons for the image boost.  He notes divisions within the opposition camp headed by Anwar Ibrahim, an improved local economy and the effort to replace the restrictive security law as constributors to Malaysia's improved image abroad. Merican says that has left Prime Minister Najib in a commanding position.

“His main achievements now so far are more on the foreign policy front. It gives Malaysia a new image as a moderate country, there are petty politicians here playing the race and religious issues but overall he is positioning himself and the country as a true moderate," Merican said. "The effects of his foreign policy initiatives are being felt by David Cameron coming here.”

At home, Najib also won support from the Malaysian Bar Council, which has been at odds with the government over issues dating back to the 1980s and 1990s when the autocratic Mahathir Mohammad was at the nation’s helm.

Bar Council President Lim Chee Wee applauded the scrapping of the security act. But he says legislation written to replace those laws had raised concerns about the rights of those accused of terror-related crimes. He says this is now being addressed and reviewed with Malaysia’s Attorney-General.

“With these sorts of movements, what we’ve seen is civil society at the Malaysian bar we play a role in, making sure the government reacts to improving weaknesses in the system. Certainly in the last few years we’ve had three different chief justices -- two of whom have retired -- who have restored confidence and in the present chief justice certainly the bar has the full confidence that the judiciary will be independent.”

Also fueling intense media speculation of an early poll was the enthronement on Wednesday of the 84-year-old Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah as Malaysia’s new king in a lavish ceremony.

Malaysia has had an elected monarchy since independence from Britain in 1957. The monarchy, which is essentially a ceremonial position, rotates every five years among the rulers of the nine Malaysian states still headed by royalty.  This is Mr. Shah’s second term on the throne.

Diplomatic sources say the prime minister had wanted to wait until the king had been installed before deciding on whether or not to call an early poll.

However, both Lee and Merican say an early election is not a guarantee. Merican added that the prime minister is in a far more comfortable position than he was three years ago when he ousted his predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, from power in a party room coup.

“Yeah, I think there is a lot of speculation over when the election will be held you know. Someone said maybe May, June," Merican speculated. "This morning someone told me probably October but I think the only thing that’s certain is that by March 2013 he must hold the elections. So I think basically he will call the shots whenever he feels comfortable about it.”

Some members of Najib's United Malays National Organization party say he must improve the party's standing if he is to cement his position as an elected Malaysian leader. UMNO lost its cherished two-thirds majority in parliament in 2008. For the moment at least, all the indications are he remains on track to achieve just that.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Subramaniam
April 15, 2012 5:45 AM
I fully endorse DatoSri Najib's leadership.He has done a lot to meet the needs of the people.In the past Malaysian Indians were taken for granted.With the new initiatives to adress the isues faced by the Indians,majority of Indians are backing our Prime Minister

by: seahorse
April 14, 2012 1:20 AM
THE SCORPENE TRAIL IN FRAQNCE AND THE MURDER OF ALTANTUYA CAN IT BE A BOOST FOR EARLY ELECTION??????

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs