MALAYSIAN opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad is leading public opinion over Prime Minister Najib Razak, a pollster claimed Monday, as the Southeast Asian country edges closer to federal polls on May 9.
Rafizi Ramli, founder of the opposition-aligned Invoke Malaysia Centre for Policy Initiatives (Invoke), said the 93-year-old Dr Mahathir has the support of 29.9 percent of voters surveyed, ahead of Najib’s 23.8 percent.
About 10.4 percent, meanwhile, said they support Pan Islamic Party (PAS) leader Abdul Hadi Awang, while the remaining 35.9 percent of respondents chose other candidates.
Held between April 12 and 23 this year, the survey involved over 1,960 registered voters who were selected randomly and interviewed by Invoke’s call agents.
Rafizi claimed the majority of voters (40.5 percent) believe the federal government will fall into to the hands of Pakatan Harapan (Hope Alliance), compared to the 27.6 percent who believe the long-ruling Barisan National (National Front) will return to power.
Barisan National’s traditional support base from the majority ethnic Malay community, Rafizi said, has declined over the past six months, with the bulk of these voters now in favour of Harapan.
According to Rafizi, 83.7 percent of Malay respondents who identified themselves as non-Harapan supporters who were either fence sitters or in favour of BN and PAS, were asked about their support for Najib.
Rafizi said of the total, 23.7 percent said they wanted to see Najib return as prime minister while 60 percent either said “no” or were “unsure”.
“I can categorically conclude that the prospect of Pakatan (Harapan) overtaking BN’s Malay support is becoming more real as we get closer to the election,” Rafizi said.
In January, the opposition named former premier Dr Mahathir as its frontrunner while the country’s most popular opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim remained in jail.
Dr Mahathir is seen as the biggest threat to Najib, who is engulfed in a corruption scandal.
Dr Mahathir, who earned a reputation during his 22-year tenure as prime minister as a no-nonsense authoritarian with little time for dissenters promoting liberal values, stands to become the world’s oldest leader if the opposition wins.
A victory could also potentially pave the way for Dr Mahathir’s former foe-turned-comrade Anwar to become the prime minister.