13 March, 2009

Umno corrupt: survey

SINGAPORE: Umno (United Malays National Organisation) has received a slap in the face just ahead of its key annual meeting, with many voters polled in a survey seeing Malaysia's biggest political party as corrupt and out of touch with the ground.

Respondents to the survey also said that International Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was the best choice for the deputy prime minister's position, a contrast from Umno pundits, who expect another leader to emerge as the new No. 2.

The 1,031 respondents also felt that the views of ordinary Malaysians should be considered while picking leaders in internal Umno polls, going against the conventional political wisdom that the leaders are picked only by party members.

The party's chiefs are currently elected by about 2,500 top Umno cadres in elections that are held every three years.

The survey was conducted last month by independent pollster Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.

Respondents comprised 57% Malays, 31% Chinese and 12% Indians based on random sampling.

The survey showed that a year after the watershed general election that empowered the opposition, voters were clamouring for a bigger say in how the country's leaders were picked.

"This survey indicates the Malaysian public's keen interest in Umno's election," Merdeka Centre chief Ibrahim Suffian said in a statement.

"They also have strong views about the problems affecting the party while at the same time harbour high hopes that those elected...will be able to fulfil their wishes."

From 24 to 28 March, Umno will hold its annual assembly, which incorporates the triennial party polls.

Its president and deputy president traditionally become the prime minister and deputy prime minister respectively, and many of its top leaders are Cabinet ministers.

The survey found that 79% of the voters polled wanted Umno delegates to "take into consideration the views of ordinary Malaysians in determining Umno leadership line-up as it influences national politics", the Merdeka Centre said.

"Why should the power to appoint the leaders who will rule 27 million people be in the hands of such a select few?" asked 43-year-old housewife Connie Wong.

The survey showed that a high percentage of voters have a negative image of the 3.2 million strong party.

A total of 61% of those polled viewed corruption as Umno's most serious problem, while 13% said its second most serious problem was being "out of touch" with the public.

Voters were also worried the party had "weak leaders" and that it was a "weak manager of the economy".

In a startling reflection of the Chinese voters' rejection of the Malay party, which leads a multiracial coalition, the poll showed that just 1% of Chinese respondents hoped Umno would "continue to lead the country".

Three per cent of Indian respondents hoped the same for Umno. In contrast, 19% of Malays wanted the party to continue leading the country.

A similar 1% of Chinese respondents said they had hope for Umno to develop the country, yet none expected Umno to "perform well and keep the promises".

As for the qualities they desired in Umno leaders, 21% of the respondents ranked "being just to the people" or being "close to the people" (11%) as among the most important.

Deputy prime minister Najib Razak is slated to take over as Umno president and Malaysian prime minister by early next month.

But the Umno deputy president's post, and hence the deputy prime minister's post, will be decided by the party from among three men.

Umno pundits are saying that Malacca Chief Minister Ali Rustam is leading in the unofficial count, followed by Tan Sri Muhyiddin and Rural Development Minister Muhammad Muhammad Taib.

But if Malaysian voters were allowed to make their pick, Muhyiddin would be the outright winner. (By HAZLIN HASSAN/ The Straits Times/ANN)

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