Musharraf's popularity graph plummets: IRI survey

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Islamabad, Oct 12 (UNI) President Pervez Musharraf's popularity is slumping in Pakistan, while former exiled prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are emerging as popular leaders.

In addition to declining approval ratings, General Musharraf's points fell in several other categories as well, the Dawn newspaper quoted the survey, conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) of the US Republican Party, as saying.

The poll was conducted between August 29 and September 13 and randomly selected the sample consisting of 4,009 men and women from 256 rural and 144 urban areas of 60 districts in the four provinces of Pakistan.

The percentage of voters saying that embattled Gen Musharraf should resign increased by seven points to 70 and his favourability rating dropped by 13 points to 22.

Further, when asked to name the best leader for Pakistan, General Musharraf, a key US ally, dropped to third place, following Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

In IRI's Feburary 2007 poll, President Musharraf's re-election was supported by 50 per cent while 40 per cent opposed it. Since then, his support has seen a consistent drop.

In IRI's September poll, the support for his re-election dropped to 23 per cent with 74 per cent opposing to it.

Another interesting finding of the survey is that a majority of respondents were opposed to a deal between President Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan People's Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto.

During August, amid talk of a potential deal between Ms Bhutto and Gen Musharraf, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif cemented his image as the real opposition leader challenging President Musharraf's rule.

His image was also helped by the unfolding drama of his return to Pakistan after over seven years of exile.

His favourability rating remained at 53 per cent, up three points from June, and he bagged 15 points in the ''Best Leader for Pakistan'' category, with 36 per cent of voters selecting him.

His ''Best Leader'' number was high in Punjab where he was the choice of 55 per cent of those surveyed.

Ms Bhutto's positioning as a 'sometime opponent' of President Musharraf as well as a 'potential partner' in a power-sharing deal created ambiguity in the minds of voters.

Those selecting her as the best leader declined slightly to 28 per cent (down four points). However, Ms Bhutto was still leading in Sindh and Balochistan, although she came in third in Punjab and the North West Frontier Province.

More dramatic than her leadership support was a drop in her personal image, with her favourability rating dropping 18 points, putting her behind Mr Sharif.

Asked if President Musharraf should resign as army chief, 76 per cent said yes (up from 62 per cent in June). Seventy-six per cent disagreed to Gen Musharraf retaining the role of president in order to promote stability, indicating that this line of reasoning did not carry any weight.

UNI

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