Malaysians split over Bersih rally, survey finds

Malaysians are split in their opinions of tomorrow's Bersih 4 rally, a recent survey by independent pollster Merdeka Centre has found, with 43% viewing it favourably as opposed to 47% who do not support the assembly.

The survey found that while 48% of the men surveyed were in support of Bersih 4, only 39% of women had the same opinion. Fifty-one percent of urban voters viewed the rally favourably but among the rural folk, only 31% supported it.

Similarly, 57% of those from households earning more than RM3,000 a month were supportive of Bersih and only 28% of those who come from households earning less than RM3,000 were in favour of the rally.

But the disparity between those who were in support of Bersih 4 was more evident in the race category, where it was found that Chinese supporters of Bersih made up more than three times the percentage of Malays who were in favour of the rally.

"Perhaps the most marked finding was that the rally was supported by 81% of the ethnic Chinese respondents and 51% of the ethnic Indian respondents but only favoured by 23% of the ethnic Malay voters interviewed," Merdeka Center said in a statement today.

The 1,010 people surveyed were randomly selected from Peninsular Malaysia along the lines of ethnicity, gender, age and parliament constituencies and were interviewed between August 15 and August 21.

Most of the respondents (39%), who were in favour of Bersih, said that their reasons for doing so was because they wanted to see improvement in institutions such as the electoral process and Parliament.

Twenty-five percent said that they wanted to express their unhappiness with the government, while 13% said they wanted to show their dissatisfaction towards Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Another 11% said they wanted to express anger over the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST).

Most who voted unfavourably for the Bersih 4 rally said they feared the violence and chaos that could possibly take place during the rally (52%), while 22% felt that Bersih will not achieve anything significant with the gathering.

A small percentage (4%) feared that the Malays would be marginalised if Najib was forced to step down.

"In our opinion, the survey reveals a Peninsular Malaysia electorate that is polarized along ethnic and socio-economic lines," Merdeka Center said.

"While the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur is likely going to attract a high level of participation in terms of crowd size, as indicated by the overwhelming sale of merchandise and donations received by the organiser, the survey suggests that participants will likely be drawn from urban, Internet-savvy and non-Bumiputera voters," the pollster added.

The Bersih 4 rally, which has been declared illegal by the police, is taking place this weekend in Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu as well as major cities around the world.

It will kick off at 2pm tomorrow and is to scheduled to continue for the next 34 hours.

The rally, organised by electoral reform group Bersih 2.0, is pressing for institutional reforms, the freedom to protest, measures to save the economy and a clean government and political system.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said the rally would be akin to a vote of no-confidence against Najib, who is under pressure to account for alleged scandals involving his brainchild 1Malaysia Development Berhad and RM2.6 billion deposited into his personal accounts. – August 28, 2015.