News / Asia

Malaysian PM Appeals to Youth Amid Election Speculation

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, gestures as he speaks at a radio station in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 20, 2011.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, gestures as he speaks at a radio station in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 20, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Luke Hunt

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak is undergoing an image makeover designed to appeal to his country’s burgeoning youth vote. The move follows a protest by tens of thousands of demonstrators earlier this year demanding more electoral transparency. Now, as the prime minister tries to boost his party’s popularity, there is speculation he will call an early election for November or early 2012. 

Najib has been in power since 2009, when he ousted his predecessor after the worst election performance by his party, the United Malays National Organization or UMNO. The party retained power with a sharply reduced majority and Najib pledged to restore UMNO’s lost prestige among voters.

To do this the 58-year-old politician must win over the nation’s youth. He has been working hard to cultivate what his handlers describe as a “cool image” something akin to a local pop star.

He made an unexpected appearance at a rock concert and gave free beverage coasters to about 200,000 people who follow him on Twitter.

Christopher Dillon, the principal of Dillon Communications, a Hong Kong-based consulting firm that specializes in training senior executives and politicians in communications, says Najib has a tough road ahead while contending with the sometimes overwhelming political presence of former leader Mahathir Mohamad and long standing opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

“He’s an old school politician and he’s caught between Mahathir who is the ultimate old school politician and Anwar Ibrahim who is of the same vintage, but is sort of more of a fire brand," he said. "So he’s really got to try and step outside of his comfort zone and become more appealing to the younger voters.”

However, in winning over the Internet-savvy youth, Najib has to contend with the fallout from the July 9 political rallies in the capital. Then, protestors, many of them young, were calling for electoral reform, only to be beaten with batons and tear gassed by police.

Since then, Najib has bowed to demands by the protestors, putting electoral reform on the agenda. He has also announced he will repeal laws that curtail press freedom and freedom of assembly, and grant police extensive powers of detention under the Internal Security Act.

He now speaks often about his affinity with the Manchester United football team and appears at public events in casual clothing. This is a significant change from the stern faced, suit wearing poses that the prime minister is noted for.

Dillon says this is all part of a delicate political balancing act.

“He’s got a very diverse constituency ranging from very very traditional Malay voters to young people who are agitating for change and that means he’s got to try and be all things to all people and that’s always a very very tough thing to do, especially if you’re trying to be authentic," said Dillon. "And young voters are very very carefully in tune to that issue of authenticity. They can smell it if you appear to be fake or somehow forced.”

Najib also suffered a decline in opinion polls following the July 9 rallies, amid claims his government had lost touch with the broader electorate. Local commentators say by conducting a campaign more akin with U.S.-presidential style elections, the prime minister is hoping to boost his popularity, which in turn should improve UMNO’s standing within the electorate.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid