Issues are an effective propaganda tool

ISSUES are the opposition’s ammunition during elections. The closer the issues are to thehearts of the people, the more powerful the ammunition may become.

Issues are, thus, the soul of the opposition’s ceramah or political talk show which has been their most effective propaganda tool to influence the public. Conversely, such a politically charged assembly is toothless if there are no issues to spice it up.

If an opposition leader can put across issues,usually through some dramatic presentations such as jokes, songs or even deific vilification – for instance, portraying the Chinese God of Prosperity as a beggar — which some opposition leaders are very good at — he or she can score political points.The seriousness of these issues may be amplified manifold and the discontentment level elevated a few notches.

After that, the issues will take on a life of their own. In coffee shops, you could hear those who attended the ceramah repeating what they had heard the night before to their friends oreven strangers at the next table. They discussed the issues and laughed about how BN elected representatives or ministers had been mocked by the speakers at the ceramah.

Their final conclusion was always unfavourable to the ruling party. And when they left the coffee shop, youcould, somehow,tell where their votes would go on polling day.

The turn-up at the opposition’s ceramahis a tell-tale sign of their support. The last ceramah– the one before polling — is especially crucial in gauging the general outcome of an election.

For example, during the Balingian by-election campaign in 2014, PKR had been holding its nightly political assemblies since Nomination Day. On the first few days, the attendance was nothingto speak of. Then, it started picking up with biggercrowds. The few days before polling, however, attendance started to dwindle.

On the final evening, attendance was so poor that the outcome of the by-election was obvious – that BN would win by a landslide. And it did with its candidate, YussibnoshBalo, garnering 8,194 votes to win by a majority of 6,911 votes while his opponent, PKR’s Abdul JalilBujang, polled 1,283 votes.

The thrust of the opposition’s campaign lies in the propaganda war they wage at their nightly ceramah and success would depend how they exploit issues to score political mileage.

State BN chairman Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri AdenanSatem knows it. Since taking over as Chief Minister in February 2014, his reforms such as abolishment of tolls, reduction of electricity tariffs, recognition of UEC and eradication of illegal logging, among others, have sethis popularity soaring. But his intention is not to be popular but rather, to resolve the issues the opposition have been exploiting over the years.

There are different issues at different levels. How localised issues in each constituency are tackled by its elected representative will indirectly affect the image of the government. Moreover, there are issues pertaining only to Sarawak and bigger issues affecting the nation as a whole.

As Chief Minister, Adenan has done his part in addressing State issues. But crucially, he has to ensureBN incumbents also see to it thatthat there are no outstanding issues which may come back to haunt the ruling coalition during election time.

For the imminent State election, because of Adenan’s policies, the opposition may lack issues to play up at the state level althoughsome of his under-performing elected representatives mayleave him with a handful of irritants.

Patently, the opposition are left mainly with national issues, among the exploitable being the sudden surge in living costs due to GST and the weak Ringgit.

Another thorny issue may be 1MDB.Despite Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad ZahidRamidi’s clarification that it will be resolved (by 80 per cent), IMDB remains a contentiousissue,bushwhacked by its adversaries at the slightest opportunity.

As a result, there is a general distrust of the federal leadership and this may spill over to the State ahead of the election by virtue Sarawak being a part of the National BN.How far will this adversely affect the State remains to be seen. The
issue has to addressed, regardless.

As for the Chinese majority seats, whether Adenan can wrest them back for BN will depend on how successful he is in disentangling himself from the national issues.In the light of this,itis seen as a smart move on theChief Minister’s part to introduce the ‘Adenan’s Team’ where professionals without political baggage will identified as direct candidates.

Three years as Chief Minister, Adenan has shown a totally new way of doing things. With his ‘think outside the box’ policymaking process, Sarawakians can expect him come up with a list of candidatesdrawn from outside the box.

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