Bersih needs a rebranding


By Azhar Nordin

The talk around the idea of a fifth Bersih demonstration and the events that have happened since it was proposed tell us that the organisers have not learned a thing from the disappointment of Bersih 4.

First, the name Bersih itself is no longer a viable brand, being far too closely associated with the DAP and its alleged chauvinism. It’s quite clear that a segment of the Malay community is wary of the motives of the Bersih steering committee, and this is not helped by the opposition’s adoption of its agenda.

As we’ve discussed in the aftermath of Bersih 4, the name has become a burden. New faces must be brought in to reinvigorate the movement. That is of course not easy, but it’s nevertheless necessary if Bersih hopes to capitalise on the widespread anger and frustration of Malaysians.

The coalition may be hoping that the crowd it failed to attract for Bersih 4 will come out for Bersih 5 because the times have changed for the worse, but leaving things to chance reeks of failure to plan.

Second, the stated goals of Bersih 5 are nebulous at best. Bersih 2.0 itself occupies a certain niche, but its later protests were not directly related to its mission of ensuring electoral integrity. Bersih 4 suffered greatly because of this despite the decision to drag the protest over several days.

Third, the close association with an alleged Chinese agenda is hurting Bersih. It’s programme is indeed seen as largely appealing to the urban Chinese, an excitable lot at the best of times. The same reasoning Mahathir gave for Bersatu’s race-based focus rings true here as well.

There’s no escaping the reality that in order to galvanise the Malays into supporting a cause, at least the leader of the cause must be Malay.

Looking at the lukewarm response so far to Bersih 5, perhaps that’s the kind of rebranding Bersih desperately needs.

Azhar Nordin is an FMT reader.

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