Charm offensive in N-Day joy launch, say analysts
KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 — Barisan Nasional (BN) top leaders are on a charm offensive for the urban vote in the next general election using the National Day celebrations launch in key historic communal pockets in the capital city, say several political analysts.
Tonight at 8, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai will launch the “Kibarkan Jalur Gemilang (Wave the Jalur Gemilang)” Month in Brickfields, Kampung Baru and Petaling Street respectively ahead of National Day on August 31 and Malaysia Day on September 16.
“They have to do it; they must not give up on the urban vote,” regional columnist and political analyst Karim Raslan told The Malaysian Insider.
BN controls only two of the 12 federal seats in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, the administrative capital, after historic defeats in Election 2008 where it lost its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority and four more states.
Other analysts say that National Day celebrations have always been used to project the ruling coalition’s image, particularly with the Malaysian flag — the Jalur Gemilang — popping up across the country in a display of patriotism by citizens.
“My point of view is that the National Day themes, speeches, rhetoric have always reflected the political flavour of the ruling coalition,” said Ibrahim Suffian from the independent pollster Merdeka Center.
He also said Najib has been on a “strong personal mission to project himself (and) his transformation agenda to the Malaysian public”, adding that the prime minister was “doing that not just in the context of government policies, but how the ruling coalition is working to fulfil its promises.”
This year’s National Day celebrations theme is “Janji Ditepati” (Promises Fulfilled), while past themes were variations of Najib’s 1 Malaysia agenda, including “Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan” (People First, Performance Now) and “1 Malaysia Menjana Transformasi” (1 Malaysia Driving Transformation).
National Day celebrations before Najib took over in 2009 appeared more focused on the message of unity, with the 2008 theme being “Perpaduan Teras Kejayaan” (Unity is the Core of Success).
Political analyst Ong Kian Ming commented on the “Janji Ditepati” theme, saying: “I think it’s a new slogan heading into the general election as 1 Malaysia has been used for quite some time.”
The country’s sixth prime minister has also been touring the country under the Jelajah Janji Ditepati (Promises Fulfilled Tour) organised by TV3, the main station of private broadcaster Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Bhd (STMB) that is linked to his Umno party.
The tour is part of a campaign to remind voters that his administration has carried out its pledges since he took office in April 2009. Najib is bidding for his own mandate at the polls as he succeeded Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a year after Election 2008.
Dr Lim Teck Ghee, director of the Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI), bluntly described the “Kibarkan Jalur Gemilang” launch as a “pre-election barrage from BN.”
“National Day celebrations should not be so politically exploited. The way BN is exploiting it shows the level of desperation,” he said, adding that the federal government was “trying to make use of every opportunity to show BN’s good side and win votes.”
He said that the ruling coalition seems to be “making use of National Day, national festivals and machinery of state to basically buy votes”, but noted that this was “the gray area of ethical politics.”
Pointing out that this is a “one-off event”, Lim said voters will not be “seduced easily by these public relations campaign” as there was a “tremendous contradiction between what they’ve heard and what they face in reality.”
Brickfields, Kampung Baru and Petaling Street traditionally represent the Klang Valley’s centre for the country’s Indian, Malay and Chinese community but of late have been occupied by immigrants from India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal.
Ibrahim also commented on Najib’s choice of personally launching the celebrations in Brickfields, saying that “he has chosen the Indian community in Brickfields as the spot to make his presence felt” and it “signals the fact that the Indian community’s support is critical for BN.”
“It is also a calculated move to address what has been a series of negative news affecting the Indian community arising from the media’s vilification of Ambiga and some disquiet over promises made to the Indian community,” he said, referring to electoral reform group Bersih leader Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.
“The launch of the National Day celebrations will be in one aspect another event (that shows) which group seems to be ensuring the strength of the ruling coalition,” Ibrahim added.
Lim agreed with Ibrahim, saying that this shows that “they know they can’t win simply on Malay votes alone.”
Ong said that it was “symbolic to reach out” to the country’s three main races whose votes BN will have to secure in the upcoming polls which must be held by next April.