Thursday, 27 December 2018

Honeymoon wanes on Mahathir’s ‘New Malaysia’

Opinion polls show premier's popularity is falling fast as supporters begin to sense his newly elected government won't be able to keep all its campaign vows

From the political earthquake of May’s general election that toppled long-serving prime minister Najib Razak, to the wheels of justice turning on a globe-spanning corruption scandal, 2018 has been momentous a year for Malaysia. Few have been as directly affected by fast-moving events than veteran politician Anwar Ibrahim, who was only months ago languishing in a jail cell on a politicized sodomy conviction.

He is now prime-minister-in-waiting and expected to take the reins of power when incumbent leader Mahathir Mohamad steps down within the next two years. In a recent article, Anwar was quoted referring to Malaysia’s expectation-defying election and political transition as an example of “democratic disruption” and a “hopeful outlier to a global trend towards populist nationalism.”

Supporters have heralded the downfall of the once-dominant United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition it led as the beginning of a “New Malaysia.” But while the ending of an decades-long era initially brought euphoria, disillusionment is already on the rise as cracks begin to show within the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Public approval of Mahathir’s performance has plunged nearly 20% since June, according to Invoke Malaysia, a non-profit pollster founded by Rafizi Ramli, vice president of Anwar’s party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). Support from respondents across all ethnic groups has fallen, leaving the premier with a 53% approval rating, down from a 72% high.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at