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Analysts: Cool act makes Najib hot

 | September 21, 2011

But will it make a difference at the ballot box? Some say it depends on the timing of the general election.

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s latest campaign to appear cool to the young may just help him win their votes, according to analysts.

However, one analyst said some of the prime minister’s new fans might not make it in time to get on the electoral roll and another said the cool factor could dissipate easily.

On the weekend, Najib appeared at the Suara Kami concert and the audience gave him a rousing welcome. Yesterday, he took part in some segments of two morning shows on radio.

Pundits have been saying that the votes of the young would be crucial in the coming general election.

Pollster Merdeka Centre’s research manager, Tan Seng Keat, said Najib was using “the right channel to target the right group”.

He argued against the popular opinion that young voters were more likely to vote for the opposition than for Barisan Nasional.

“If you study the history of voting trends in Malaysia, more than half of first-time voters are fence-sitters,” he told FMT.

“They also tend to be personality-driven. So it is up to Najib to persuade them to vote for BN.”

He predicted that Najib would now give the opposition a run for its money. “Previously, the opposition had the upper hand, with quite a number of young, handsome, beautiful leaders.”

However, he raised the question of whether there would be enough time for these public relations activities to produce meaningful results at the ballot box, considering the speculation that the general election would be held soon.

“If the election is in November, the young voters who register now will not be able to vote,” Tan pointed out. “But to appeal to this group is worth a shot. It is better than nothing.”

Looks good, speaks well

Rita Sim of the Centre for Strategic Engagement said Najib had been doing “the right thing” for some time now, trying to reach out to all Malaysians, not just the young.

“But notwithstanding this, it does seem as though he has stepped up his campaign in the right direction.”

She also said BN had the edge over the opposition because the public could clearly see Najib as its leader.

“You look at the opposition. Until today, it is still unclear who their leader is. Najib is seen as the clear leader, and that does give some advantage to the BN.”

Ooi Kee Beng, who co-ordinates the Malaysia study programme at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said Najib’s personal image was stronger that the image of Umno or BN.

“He looks good on camera, he speaks well,” Ooi said.

But he told FMT that these qualities might not be enough to help Najib increase votes for BN. “Malaysia is at a point where people are calling for reforms. Just being good looking isn’t going to get you very far.”

He said Najib was actually at a disadvantage in the competition for coolness.

“Being against power has always been considered cool. That is why the opposition can capitalise on the cool factor. Being power itself, I don’t think you can win the game easily.”

He acknowledged that Najib could nevertheless sway the young to his side, but added that he had to call the election soon to capitalise on his cool factor because it could dissipate fast.

“It may disappear easily in a night or two,” he said.

Also read:

‘Cool’ Najib pulls a prank on DJ

The Anwars tell Najib how to be ‘cool’


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