SUPPORT for Pakatan Harapan in rural areas has grown after the opposition pact named Dr Mahathir Mohamad as its candidate for prime minister, according to a recent study.
Institut Darul Ehsan (IDE) chief executive Professor Dr Mohammad Redzuan Othman said most of the respondents from its recent survey agreed with the decision because of the former prime minister’s experience in leading the country for 22 years.
“But the people want to see what he can offer as an alternative to Barisan National led by (Prime Minister) Najib Razak,” Redzuan told The Malaysian Insight.
“Apart from that, the support has increased because he is deemed as the only who has the most courage to attack Najib in Malaysia today,” he said.
Redzuan, however, refused to divulge any detail from the survey. He said the findings will be made public soon.
Following the announcement of Dr Mahathir and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as PH’s choice for the top two posts on January 7, IDE sent a team of researchers across the country to gauge people’s sentiments on the selection.
Dr Mahathir, Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister from 1981 until 2003, is now leading PH, which is made up of Bersatu, PKR, DAP and Amanah.
In the beginning, there was a negative reaction towards the announcement, Redzuan said.
“But what’s interesting is 80% who can’t accept Dr Mahathir said it is because of his age. For those who accept Dr Mahathir as prime minister, it’s because of his experience administering Malaysia.
“Those who accept him is because of his experience, those who don’t is because he is an old man,” the vice-chancellor of Universiti Selangor (Unisel) said.
Dr Mahathir factor in Bersatu
Redzuan said respondents also linked Dr Mahathir’s age with illness, doubting his ability to lead at 92.
“Although he is old, he could still deliver a 41-minute speech at the PH convention. A 92-year-old man can’t talk that long, usually even those who are 50 years old can’t do that.
“Age is associated with infirmity but it doesn’t apply to Dr Mahathir,” the former Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) director said.
Bersatu, Umno’s splinter party, also managed to garner more public support, especially in rural areas, because of Dr Mahathir, he said.
“In our survey, we asked questions like what do you think of Umno? And they said Umno is the ruling party. What do you make of PAS? They said PAS is fighting for Islam.
“When we asked about Bersatu, they said it’s Dr Mahathir’s party. It means they know (about the party), it shows the party’s trademark. It sticks in their minds.
“Without even thinking, they can answer that. Bersatu is Dr Mahathir’s party. They don’t say it’s Umno’s splinter party or ‘Parti Bunga Raya’.
“There are many options but the top answer is Dr Mahathir’s party. It means Dr Mahathir has his strength in rural areas.”
Because of Umno’s uninterrupted rule of Malaysia since Merdeka, it is vital for PH to have a strong and influential figure in their fight to bring down the ruling coalition, he said.
“That’s why Dr Mahathir is the most qualified person to be named as the prime minister candidate.
“He is the attraction wherever he goes, in Felda or other rural areas.”