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Najib embarks on ‘young and cool’ campaign

By Thursday September 22nd, 2011 No Comments

KUALA LUMPUR: At a Pakatan Rakyat function some months back, Nurul Izzah, the PKR vice-president and Lembah Pantai MP, was cool showing off her guitar at a fund raiser.

She strummed the guitar, sang a song and had it auctioned off to raise funds.

It was a good show and the packed audience in Bangsar were delighted. It showed the PR as young, modern and above all “cool”, qualities needed to woo the young voters.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak might have come late in wooing young voters but he has taken it to a new level with a series of back-to-back events throughout this week that has him showing off his lighter side on two popular radio stations Hitz.fm and MIX fm.

He also made an impromptu stop at Malay radio station Era FM.

Najib was asked which girl band Belinda Carlisle belonged to, and gave the correct answer, The Go Go’s.

He said he had a cassette tape of the 80s rock band in his younger days.

At all these stations, he bandied his knowledge of football, music, movies and traded titbits about his job as the chief executive of the nation.

He talked about how his iPhone wakes him up with a number from Culture Club, his exercise regime and his engagement of youths who are the future leaders.

A few days earlier, he was pictured by major newspapers wearing a t-shirt and casually taking pictures at a recent Suara Kami concert, a major image makeover from the staid if dynamic chief executive in coat and tie attending to a business function.

The radio stations have no match for their pulling power of young people. Hitz FM rakes in an average of 1.575 million listeners a week in the age range of 10 to 29 while Mix FM has an average listener of 523,000 a week, between 25 and 34.

Najib also described the experience as “awesome” and “sempoi” – a popular Malay word that means “cool”.

He wants to project a cool or sempoi image of himself and the Barisan Nasional coalition he heads.

With an estimated 3.2 million new voters, most of them under 35, by the first quarter of 2013, the total voter population would increase from 14 million to 17 million.

Most political parties are also busy registering new voters across the country in addition to NGOs and other associations all helping to increase the voter pool dramatically.

The battle to win the hearts and minds of the young voters has started in earnest and Najib aims to win over a big slice with his young and cool campaign.

He already has the largest following in the country on Facebook and Twitter and is now going for image rebranding on radio, television and mainstream newspapers.

The country is heading into unchartered territory with the huge increase in voter population at all levels.

Young people were a key voter segment that swung in favour of the Pakatan Rakyat opposition in elections in 2008 carrying it to record gains but Najib has been making inroads in this crucial voter segment.

On the opposite side, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is tied down with his on-going Sodomy 2 court case, where he has been call to defend himself, and to fight off the sex tape allegations.

Najib comes to the “young and cool” campaign fresh from announcing some of the most startling reforms ever in the country, like repealing the ISA, abolishing the state of emergency laws and freeing the media from annual licenses.

The response from audiences is refreshing and, generally, the young people he has touched say it is “awesome” that he is participating.

He has a team of new media makeover artists helping him to grapple with new situations. Some of them are said to have help Tony Blair in his “new labour” enterprise.

A new Najib is emerging from these carefully orchestrated encounters one that has stumped Pakatan Rakyat leaders who are at a loss to counter it.

Najib, 58, also rallied his Barisan Nasional colleagues in Selangor urging them to close ranks, end infighting and the need to be “progressive, dynamic, cool and the party of the future.”

Najib’s new image sells him as a moderate reformer and the “cool, new” leader of the future.

It is certain that Najib is moving to take the “Middle Malaysia” vote bank and he is set to make headways given the huge efforts that are deployed.

But reform is the way to go, public relation exercise or not.

Doing away with the obsolete ISA, reforming the media publishing licenses and promising reforms on other restrictive legislations has undercut long standing opposition campaigns and public demands for democracy.

These are watershed events and marks Najib as a new and emerging reformist leader willing to take the bull by the horns and let the rest of society follow through.

A lot of fence sitters and newly registered voters and traditional Barisan Nasional supporters are willing to give Najib a chance whether or not the “young and cool” campaign works.

They need a strong leader to push through fundamental reforms that democratise society and keep the economy going despite a downturn in the global economy.

Source : The Star

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