Najib’s Popularity Slips as Malaysia Foes Plan Election Rally

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak’s approval rating fell to the lowest level in 16 months as his opponents aim to draw 100,000 people to the capital to build momentum before an election that he must call before May.

Najib’s approval rating fell to 63 percent in December, down from 65 percent in November and the lowest since he received 59 percent support in August 2011, the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research said today. Support among ethnic Chinese voters fell to 34 percent, according to the survey of 1,018 people on Peninsular Malaysia conducted between Dec. 15 and Dec. 28. The margin of error was estimated at 3.07 percentage points.

Opposition parties led by Anwar Ibrahim are planning to stage a “People’s Uprising Rally” in Kuala Lumpur two days from now, testing Najib’s commitment to allow greater political freedoms in the Muslim-majority country where his party has ruled since 1957. In the last election in 2008, the governing National Front coalition lost the two-thirds majority in parliament that it had held for four decades.

Najib, 59, last month said the National Front would seek to recoup the lost seats in the next election. He has cut income taxes, boosted pay for government workers and extended handouts for the poor in the 2013 budget announced in September.

The poll showed support for the ruling coalition at 47 percent, while those happy with the government at 45 percent, from 48 percent in October. Najib’s disapproval rating rose to 30 percent, the highest since he took office in 2009.

The National Front coalition, known locally as Barisan Nasional, controls 137 seats in Malaysia’s 222-member parliament, with Najib’s United Malays National Organization its biggest component. Anwar’s three-party opposition, known as the People’s Alliance, holds 75 seats.

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