Friday, 7 March 2008
New York Times On Our Election Fever
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Public protests are frowned on by Malaysia’s mildly authoritarian government and often broken up by the riot police. So when a group of opposition party members and activists wanted to send a message to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi earlier this year they chose a softer and safer alternative — delivering a pillow to his office.
The popularity of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia has dropped sharply in recent months.
“He has a reputation for liking to sleep,” said Rahmat Haron, a poet and self-styled government critic. Mr. Rahmat helped lead the small delegation, which made it as far as the security checkpoint. “He sleeps in cabinet meetings, he sleeps in Parliament,” he added. “So we thought, why not make him more comfortable?”
As Malaysia prepares for general elections on Saturday, there is widespread agreement here that the coalition that has governed the country in one form or another since independence in 1957 will win enough votes to stay in power. But the fate of the prime minister, whose popularity has fallen sharply in recent months, is less certain.
Mr. Abdullah is being portrayed both by the opposition and by some high-profile members of his own party, the United Malays National Organization, as sluggish and listless.
On Wednesday, Mahathir bin Mohamad, who preceded Mr. Abdullah as prime minister and is from the same party, reiterated his regret for having chosen him as his successor and called for Malaysians to elect a strong opposition — a stunning reversal for a man who while in office sent opposition politicians to jail.