Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Losing The PR War

As much as we are anxious to know what will happen to this country in a month or two, the government and it's leaders appears to be unperturbed over continous onslaught by Anwar Ibrahim and the opposition.

Recent study by the Merdeka Centre clearly shows that the government is fast losing their popularity and PM abdullah's approval ratings are at an all time low. The retired Mahathir is far more popular despite all the misgivings that people might have. His recent writings on his blog are remarkable.

BN performance is not that bad when compared to all the weak governments around the world and PM Abdullah situation actually mirror the UK Government where Gordon Brown's approval ratings are more or less the same with PM Abdullah.

Reforms on judicial appointments, ACA, redistribution of resources through cut in subsidies, windfall tax on IPPs and plantations commodities, more open press and freedom, significant investment committed to Iskandar Development Region, cancellation of some mega projects, improved delivery system through PEMUDAH etc are what was expected from the government and they are actually working on it.

The government is actually losing the PR war. They are unable to communicate all these plans and actions effectively. If you remember, when it comes to Malaysians, it will only get into the head if key messages are repeated continously.

If you remember the constitutional crisis, both in early 80s and 90s, Mahathir undertook a nationwide tour to explain his arguement for the need of contitutional amendments. He was basically repeating the same thing, just that in various different venues around the country. He was featured in all dailies and TV almost everyday with the same messages and arguements.

Mahathir did the same right after 1998 crisis, this time to explain on the economic crisis, Anwar, plans to overcome the crisis, currency controls etc. I can still remember that he undertook a nationwide tour and insisted that he explain the whole crisis, political and economic to the Rakyat. He wanted the Rakyat to hear from him directly.

While this approach can also be seen as trying to justify his actions and also partially campaiging, it was effective, no matter if one thinks whether the elections were free or fair in 1999. The Rakyat, the market was convinced as improvements were seen post the currency controls.

What we have now is completely the opposite. Anwar has been criss-crossing the country, having ceramah freely without any restriction. He openly challenges the government, tell his version of Sodomee Part 2, even to the extend how was was stripped at the hospital, how he plans to be the next Prime Minister by Sept 16, the cross overs, corruption, mercedes, fuel price reduction by, now, 70 cents, Najib, the murderer, Abdullah weakness, economy etc. He did not, however, tell the crowd how suddenly he feel safer going around the country and talking freely on an open stage.

The the public appeared to be convinced, if you go by the turnout and also results of the Merdeka Centre survey. Anwar was clever to take advantage of the lack of PR and communication initiatives by the government. As we know how matured malaysians are, they are bound to believe whom they hear most, at the moments they hear Anwar loud and clear, repeatedly with consistent messages, no matter whether they are truth or otherwise.

Today, they announced the by-election date for Permatang Pauh and at around the same time came the news that Anwar will be charged tomorrow. Another round of accusations will fly around the country that Anwar is being deliberately denied the opportunity to contest and also to become the next prime Minister.

If the government chose to keep quiet, they will not only lose the PR war, they may lose power sooner than later. Winning and losing in politics very much depends on perception, not entirely the truth. At the moment Anwar is winning, although not on the basis of truth.

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