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Managing perceptions: Sit back or start an aggressive propaganda campaign?

Voters in Pulai and Simpang Jeram did not see things the way many people expressed themselves with Zahid Hamidi's DNAA. They gave Anwar full backing in the Johor by-elections. There are such victories to come...

The opposition has a formidable propaganda machine. What does the Pakatan Harapan have in response to that?

If there is a massive and aggressive propaganda campaign against a government, the best response is to sit back and continue the work started. That is what PM Anwar Ibrahim and his government is doing, amidst the intermittent video explainers and media statements issued.

But these are not reaching the crowd that is, in the current state, baffled by the case of Deputy PM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Will this turn of event damage Anwar’s reputation and his fight against corruption? It has already started to sink the REFORMASI into jeopardy, at least on paper. However, we must not jump to conclusion. There are more to the Zahid's acquittal.

PH troopers are flooding the internet with the number of cases of political figures who walked free from the courts basically under similar circumstances to Zahid.

Facts show that some of these cases went through a similar process through the now infamous DNAA. The term discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) is being used in court during the prosecution process for criminal cases. Lawyers are divided on its use and others are justifying its use or its various interpretations. In the Zahid case, many see it as a means to free a very corrupt man who is now protected by the PM.

However, the voters in Pulai and Simpang Jeram did not see it that way. All the criticism against Anwar fizzled with his great victories in Johor this weekend. And there are more victories to come in the future.

As for myself, from the start of the cases against Zahid, i said it was a form of politically motivated case and a form of persecution of Zahid by the then powerful people in the government.

I have no great admiration for Zahid since he bailed out on Anwar during the dark days for the PM that led to the REFORMASI era.

Open letter to Anwar Ibrahim

World Future
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I wrote a letter to Anwar in a blog post in early 1998. That was about months from Anwar’s sacking as DPM and Minister of Finance. Before that letter, I wrote a piece for a a prominent British publication in London. They botched the article by removing my quotes about the potential economic collapse of Malaysia. That was written in 1997.

Nevertheless, Zahid was probably the one who sent the letter to Anwar. So I was told. He wanted to meet me so that he could bring me to see Anwar. Anwar was still the powerful DPM. The turn of events in September 1998 were not entirely surprising to me.

I predicted Anwar will be the target in the economic crash that ensued. No finance Minister can escape such a massive economic downturn, however powerful he is.
I was right. But what happened next was simply inhuman. History aside, what should Anwar do now that his government is in some trouble with Zahid’s case thrown out if court? He is also in trouble for not winning much in the Malay belt. More trouble there is with the lack of Malay support for his unity government.

Whatever Anwar says or do will not sit well with his opponents, their supporters and some of his partners in the government. Syed Saddiq is now the latest to bail on him after he pulled MUDA the party for youths from Anwar's government. This causes Anwar to lose his two third's majority in the Parliament. But he still have a massive lead versus the opposition. He can regain that two thirds.

This majority was already at stake with the Pulai by election in Johor. A win for PN would have denied the govt its 2/3 majority. Saddiq pull out will reinforce the opposition to Anwar in the August Parliament. But winning in Pulai has changed the game for Anwar.

The Right Narrative

Some figures in the opposition may also cross the barrier and support Anwar in Parliament. Anwar has to work his way through the opposition MPs for that matter.

Now, we have the issue of the 10 MPs from Umno who wants to pull the plug from their part and from Anwar’s government may also quit. This will ultimately reduce Anwar’s strongholds but he won’t lose power. Will Pulai and Simpang Jeram stop them from this suicidal path?

So, does Anwar really need to do something drastic to remain in power? He does not have to. But what he had to do is to craft a solid narrative that would win hearts and minds both in the Parliament and among the public.

It is not only the public arena that is important here. It is also the Parliament. When Anwar regained the post of leader of the opposition in 2020, we at WorldFuture urged him to play the cards in the Parliament. Alas, the shutdown of the Parliament by PM Muhyiddin Yassin was also to prevent Anwar from stripping the government of its many wrongdoings then.

It worked for the Sheraton movers and shakers. They won many seats in the GE15 with many probably now regretting voting the  opposition MPs in after their poor showing in Parliament. But Anwar bravely kept his coalition intact after the 2020 debacle in which ex-PM Mahathir Mohamad succeeded in breaking the PH.

That said, Anwar should perhaps put more attention on the type of rhetoric and campaign the PAS and the Bersatu is running. They are a bunch of successful campaigns. It is reminiscent of the 2018-2020 opposition campaigns that led to the Sheraton move and to the Tanjung Piai debacle for the DAP.

Dissect the opposition’s rhetoric. Change the narrative. Give the people what they want. They will forget Zahid after a while. But they will not forgive PH if Najib Razak walks free from prison! However, Anwar should work towards restoring the faith of the people in their government and in the rewards they expect to reap by supporting Anwar as PM.

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