PETALING JAYA: Political analyst Azmi Hassan has given a generous evaluation of the wisdom of voters who will cast their ballots in the next general election.
He told FMT that candidates would be fooling only themselves if they still believed they could win by just meeting voters in person and being nice to them.
Azmi said shaking hands, kissing babies and sharing teh tarik with potential voters might have sometimes worked in GE14 and earlier elections, “but those days are over” because voters were now more savvy.
He said things started changing after the last general election and the pandemic had served to accelerate the awakening.
“The rakyat have seen the impact of Covid-19 on their families and their pockets. They want politicians with ideas and who are brave enough to speak up for them. A handshake, a smile or a cup of coffee may no longer work.”
He was commenting on Bersatu Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Kamal’s recent remark about the alleged predominance of patronage and personal popularity over ideas in Malay politics.
Azmi conceded that this might still be true with older rural folk. “But this attitude is changing because of the pandemic.”
He said voters were now hungry for fresh ideas that might lead to the easing of their economic problems.
“The reality is that this is one of the worst times the rakyat and businesses have experienced,” he said.
“Politicians with ideas and good policies are likely to be the gold standard for those who want to win the coming elections.”
Jeniri Amir, a fellow with the National Council of Professors, said NGOs should go to rural areas to change the mindset of voters there.
He said some were likely to base their choice of candidates on their personal bearing. “For them, it is still not so much about what ideas and policies you bring or how good you are. It is still about how well you mix with the rakyat, how you treat them, shake hands with them and stay humble.”
But he told FMT he believed the younger voters were changing.