By Mohsin Abdullah
I'm not questioning the recent Merdeka Center survey which showed an increased approval ratings for the prime minister.
And I am not disputing the methodology of the survey either. I must say I hold much respect for the pollster.
But it's just that the findings make me sit up. OK, to be honest it surprises me.
Why? For one Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's improved ratings came at a time when the majority of Malaysians are still unhappy with the direction of the country. Those are the words of Merdeka Center as reported by Malay Mail Online.
Not mine but it might as well be.
Without the benefit of a detailed survey, I can list the many grouses, complaints and anger of the rakyat which I gathered from talking and listening to relatives, friends, acquaintances and strangers even.
Perhaps it was just my "bad luck" to have met people with grievances to pour out.
Anyway, the frustrations and concerns stemmed from the perception the government has lost the plot in the fight against COVID 19.
Can't blame the people for holding such a perception, judging from the flip flops in government strategy, the SOP which according to veteran politician Tun Daim Zainuddin stands for "Semua Orang Pening" (literally translated as causing people headache), the "double standard" in dishing out actions for SOP violations, the slow-paced vaccination process, dipping into KWAN trust fund for what the government says is for COVID-19 vaccination use (an explanation which has not been fully embraced by many). And the list goes on.
Amidst that, the Merdeka Center survey showed Muhyiddin's approval ratings at 67% compared to 63% in a survey conducted in January.
Long story short. Merdeka Center said, "The results indicate the prime minister retains strong support from the Malay electorate at 83% as compared to 30% from the Chinese and 66 % from the Indian communities respectively."
Speaking as a Malay, I would say many among the community have always seen Muhyiddin as a "good practicing Muslim" which is a big factor in making them see him favorably.
Remember the many "perutusan khas" or special announcements Muhyiddin made on national television? Most of the times he would begin his speeches by uttering "Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Rahim" which means "In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious and Most Merciful". And he would end the speeches with a recital of "doa" or prayers for the country and the well-being of its people.
That really went down well among many a Malay-Muslim. Islam, as we know, plays a major role in the life of the Malay-Muslim community.
And Muhyiddin stonewalling issues albeit important, brought up by critics and detractors, is seen by many as the prime minister "refusing to play politics and wanting to work".
To be honest, I beg to differ, but as said by a friend, "People do not like politicking and the general public do not see the inside stories and only see Muhyiddin working."
Let's not go into the "inside stories" he mentioned. But that friend of mine was not only talking about the Malays but Malaysians in general.
Which brings me to ask why are non Malays, in particular the Chinese, not keen, so to speak, on Muhyiddin and his administration?
An observer can't help but ask, "Is the Chinese community's general negative appraisal of Muhyiddin and his government due to the so-called bias instigated by political forces?"
By "political forces" he meant the opposition. But if I may add or rather ask, are the Chinese seeing things the Malays are not seeing? Well, most Malays anyway.
People (I am not talking of any particular race here) who are not amused, to put it very lightly, with the way Muhyiddin and his government came into power, are naturally not happy with the findings of the survey "fearing" status quo and nothing will change.
Obviously they would like to see the government replaced soonest possible or at GE15.
The Merdeka Center survey involved 2,111 respondents from Peninsular Malaysia and out of which 64% made up of Malays, 28% Chinese and 8% Indians. And the survey was conducted from March 31 to April 12.
Which brings me to this. A report by FMT quoted a political analyst as saying "people see the government's strategy (in combating the pandemic and economic crisis) as a failure and that might cost it the election".
The political analyst is National Council of Professors fellow Jeniri Amir.
According to him, there is a huge difference between Muhyiddin's popularity and that of the rest of his government.
"Even if Muhyiddin is popular, it does not mean that the government or the cabinet members are," he was quoted saying. And I must say he does have a valid point there.
As he sees it, the survey is "a bit too optimistic", going on to say had the survey included respondents from Sabah and Sarawak, the ratings could have "dropped" due to the "Allah word" issue.
Jeniri also said the current COVID-19 surge is "not a good sign for the government".
I'll conclude this piece like how I ended a Bahasa Malaysia article I wrote for FMT a few days ago. And that is by putting forth remarks made by two Umno leaders, Tan Sri Shahrir Samad and Datuk Puad Zarkashi.
This was what Shahrir said on Facebook: "If this being the case, Parliament can reconvene. 67% approval ratings is a landslide and can even reach 77%."
The sarcasm is as clear as it can get.
And the best conclusion to me is made by Puad: "The survey showed PM is stable. If his ratings have jumped to 67%, the PM must reconvene Parliament or dissolve the Parliament.
If he dares not dissolve Parliament, then the PM himself is doubting the survey and and does not believe in the findings."
I'll leave it there.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)