Saturday, December 19, 2009


Leslie Lau
The Malaysian Insider
19 Disember 2009, Saturday

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 — Now that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties have had their first ever convention, does anyone have any inkling what a Malaysia under their control would look like?

No idea?

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his allies made a big show this morning of putting together the fledgling coalition’s common platform.

But far from any concrete proposals that would differentiate them from Barisan Nasional (BN) parties, it was a vague, watered down commitment to provide better social justice, uplift the judiciary and be less corrupt.

In other words, PR’s message to Malaysia appears to be “we will not be as bad as BN.”

Depending on public perception towards BN, that may well be enough to unseat the ruling coalition in the next general election.

But BN and Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s men are not sitting down idly warming the seats in Putrajaya for Anwar.

It is looking increasingly clear that Najib is going to try to bet his political future on improving the economy.

Najib’s strategy is clear and simple — put enough money in people’s pockets and not only will all those problems like race relations go away, the public will back BN again in big numbers.

Well, achieving high economic growth will be the tricky part.

But at least Najib knows that it is all about the economy.

Perhaps Anwar and PR knows it is about the economy too.

Perhaps Anwar and PR are hoping the economy will slide so badly again that the public will vote out BN.

Isn’t that the “we are not as bad as BN” strategy?

Is that all PR stands for? Is PR merely defined by the fact it is the “anti-BN?”

The public will have to be forgiven if that is the impression they get.

It is well and fine to blame BN and the media controlled by the ruling coalition for “manipulating” public perception against PR parties.

But the fact is PR parties have not done much to shake off the perception that they cannot rise beyond an “opposition” mindset.

And so long as they see themselves as the “opposition”, the “opposition” they shall remain.

What PR needs to understand is that it needs to present a clearly define choice to voters as to what a vote for them will mean.

Will there be higher taxes? Lower taxes? Will Bumiputera policies be abolished or amended? What about the country’s immigration policies? Will more expatriates be brought in? Will protectionism be a thing of the past? What about our national car policies? Our education system?

At least Najib’s National Key Results Areas (NKRAs) gives Malaysians an inkling of what the current administration is trying to sell.

The targets of Najib’s initiatives are lofty and many cynics say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but nearly all Malaysians agree that the NKRAs are what needs fixing.

Compare the NKRAs to PR’s common platform, and it would appear that Najib has a better idea of the pulse of the country.

Whether Najib can deliver or not is another question.

But it is clear that Anwar has a commitment problem.

He will not be pinned down as to what his PR coalition offers Malaysians except for the “we are not as bad as BN” strategy.

The public, who are consumers, want a choice when they purchase a product.

And if the label on any product does not clearly say what it is, the consumer is likely to stick with the familiar brand even if he or she is not quite happy with it.

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