KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — The majority of Umno’s 196 divisions may have supported Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s decision to axe Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin from Cabinet but on Twitter, the leader’s unceremonious dismissal last week did not sit well with nearly 90 per cent of youths.
In its final analysis of tweets posted last Tuesday when Muhyiddin’s removal was announced in a major Cabinet shakeup, social media research firm Politweet found that 440 or 87.65 per cent of the 502 users surveyed were unhappy with the decision.
The users, estimated to be between 18 and 30 years old, mostly disagreed with Muhyiddin’s removal because he had dared to demand answers from Najib on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) controversy.
“They had hoped his pressure would provide answers about 1MDB,” the firm said in its findings.
“There was much praise for him for being brave and honest; as well as expressions of love, respect, sadness and pity. Many users also expressed hope that he could become PM in future,” it added.
Of the 440 users, Politweet’s findings showed that 195 or 38.84 per cent spoke in general terms against Muhyiddin’s removal while 184 or 36.65 per cent took the opportunity to criticise Najib, with many calling for the prime minister’s resignation and some even hurling personal insults at the leader.
According to the research firm, there were variations of the phrases “Why Muhyiddin and not Najib” and “We want a new PM, not a new DPM” that were repeated many times on the microblogging site.
The remaining 61 of the 440 users or 12.15 per cent, the firm said, had urged Muhyiddin to organise his own anti-Najib campaign in protest of his removal.
Some in this category even suggested that he start his own party, work with former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad or with members of the opposition.
Combining the numbers of those who spoke ill of Najib, Politweet concluded that at least 49 per cent of the Twitter users surveyed were against the prime minister.
The research firm also observed that most of the negative sentiment from users were directed towards the embattled leader and not to ruling Umno or the Barisan Nasional (BN) pact which it said contributes to the likelihood that the party still has public support.
“Umno has a base of support among the youth that they can build on. However criticism of Umno outweighed expressions of support by a slim margin. If something isn’t done there is a risk that this base of support will reduce over time,” Politweet said.
“The dominant message we see is that the youth want Najib to step down,” the firm added.
On the flip side, Politweet revealed that 20 or 3.98 per cent of the 502 users surveyed tweeted their backing of Muhyiddin’s removal from Cabinet, mostly because they said they were supportive of Najib and his decisions. Other reasons given were that these users felt Muhyiddin was not seen as a good leader; and that they believed Cabinet members should support the PM.
A total of 42 users or 8.37 per cent were neutral.
Although still Umno’s deputy president, Muhyiddin was booted last Tuesday from the federal administration, finally putting to rest rumours of the impending Cabinet cull by Najib.
His post of deputy prime minister was given instead to Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, a known Najib loyalist.
It is believed that Muhyiddin, who only knew of his removal an hour before it was announced, was axed for his increasingly critical stance on the 1MDB scandal.
The Umno strongman had just the weekend before demanded that Najib provide answers on the scandal which later earned him a rare reprimand from the Prime Minister’s Office the day before Cabinet was reshuffled.
On Saturday, Umno supreme council member Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi claimed that 154 of Umno’s 196 division chiefs had backed Najib’s decision to remove Muhyiddin and that the matter was discussed prior to the reshuffle.
Four other ministers were also dropped in the Cabinet reshuffle: Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who was replaced by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob; Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, who was replaced by Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Wan Tuanku; Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hasan Malek, who was replaced by Datuk Hamzah Zainudin; as well as Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Ewon Ebin, who was replaced by Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau.