|DAP Political Marketing Strategies |
Dr Jeniri Amir
When attending a DAP talk in Kuching several nights ago, I found that the audiences were very passionate to hear what the opposition leader had to say, including from West Malaysia. The DAP leaders seemed excited to see the crowd of people who had gathered at their political stage to see them talk and watch their videos. DAP’s stage which carried the slogan “Sarawak Jom Ubah” was very popular because of the interesting stories that it exposes, assisted by modern tech tools that display photos and images of certain personalities. Image and perception are important to create certain impressions on voters’ mind.
Building political images
For DAP, negative images of BN and its leaders must be nailed into their mind to ensure that they vote for the opposition. Political images means construction or representation and perception of the public and the community on the candidates and the party they represent. Political images are not always showing the reality of the object, except for images which have been reconstructed through various political communication strategies.
Therefore, DAP effectively created certain images in the mind of voters through talks, cartoons, leaflets, banners, songs, mascot and others, in areas it is contesting in. Take a look at what the DAP is displaying along the roads in Kuching, Sibu and Miri at the moment. DAP has since the beginning, set up varieties of banners that mock the government and BN leaders along main roads. Their strategy is to kill the leaders’ characters with the intention to evoke hatred and anger within voters.
Political images can be created, developed and boosted. The most important thing is that the image can influence public opinions and spread meanings that can reel in voters. Political marketing and communications are activities that instill political images in the mind of the community and convince voters.
DAP campaigning strategies and approaches reminded me of an incident in Sibu during the final night of the campaign, when about 15,000 people were listening to a talk by a famous Opposition Alliance leader. The audiences were invited to sing and blow whistles. Such approach had never been used by Barisan Nasional.
In terms of political communication, DAP’s approach is seen as creative and refreshing. However, the approach by SUPP candidate in Pending where he involved direct participation of voters in his area is also something new.
Professor Dr Sim Hui Hian who is well known for his friendliness is not merely making promises. It is almost like he has ‘NKRA’ and ‘GTP’ for his own area. Outlining the main issues which needs to be achieved within a period of 100 days after being elected as a ‘wakil rakyat’ is a bold approach, thus showing his commitment to the people.
He realized that the era of making sweet promises had passed and is no longer relevant. Therefore, specific, concrete and within-the-time-frame targets can in a way convince voters who want wakil rakyat who practices pragmatic politic instead of rhetoric politic and perception politic, like what the State BN Chairman, Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud revealed several weeks ago.
Entertainment and talks
Approaches that involves public participation through talks such as done by DAP are effective strategies in getting the wanted messages across. The question is, will the present of between 500 to 5,000 audiences be manifested in the ballot box on April 16? Or could it be that half of the crowd are not registered voters, but merely individuals who are just looking for a little fun from the interesting talks delivered by the opposition leader?
The crowd seemed entertained, excited and sometimes they laugh at the contents of the talk delivered by the DAP leader. They were obviously entertained by the information, arguments and drama of the opposition leader. They did not care about the rain, because they felt that the messages delivered by DAP was important in order for them to make their decision in less than one week time.
This time, DAP had gone down to the battle field will extra ordinary confidence and passion. The confidence is not only from their huge victories during the 2006 and 2008 elections, but this time, the leadership of BN and Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) are also being plague by a number of major issues.
High political knowledge
DAP which entered Sarawak for the first time in 1978 had targeted to win at least 12 out of 15 seats which were being contested. Compared to SUPP candidates which are their main opponents, the average age of DAP’s candidates is 39 years old. DAP had filed in four female candidates for Pending, Batu Kawa, Maradong and Bawang Asan.
SUPP is said to be facing tough fights in Pujut, Piasau, Batu Kawa and Dudong. It’s a straight fight between SUPP and DAP in 10 constituencies and another one is between SUPP and PKR. In three constituencies, SUPP is facing three-cornered fights with DAP, while in one other area, it is facing a three-cornered fight with PKR.
Will SUPP end up with the same fate like MCA and Gerakan during the 2008 general election? It all lies in the hand of educated Chinese voters who are exposed to alternative information and have high political knowledge.
The sentiments of Chinese voters in the city are said to be against BN, though BN had brought in developments to their respective areas, apart from creating business opportunities for them. There are bigger issues playing in their mind, thus making them frustrated with the leadership of SUPP and BN.
Why demolished the bridge?
The fact that the Chinese community is pushing aside the oldest party in Sarawak can actually end up with them not having any representation at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) and the Sarawak Cabinet. Who will voice their problems and aspirations? Why does the Chinese community want to demolish the bridge which they have been using all this while? Are they convinced that DAP can do something concrete for them?
The Chinese community needs an opposition leader in DUN to act as the check and balance. BN being too strong, is seen as bad for good governance. As a multi-racial community, each community must be represented in the government. Efforts made by SUPP for some Chinese leaders must be continued to ensure prosperity and stability.
*The writer is a political analyst and senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak