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17 Oktober 2011

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So who is a "winnable candidate?"

COMMENT by BARADAN KUPPUSAMY

WITH the general election months away, the Barisan Nasional is pinning its hope on winning big with a slate of young and presentable “winnable” candidates who will have the “wow” factor that was sorely missing for the coalition in 2008.

The “wow” factor is considered important for candidates now that the political landscape has changed dramatically and voters are younger and more discerning and demanding of their representatives. In the new political landscape, public perception is also a crucial factor.

And the coalition that is in line with public perception by fielding the “right” candidates stand to gain.
Barisan wants to fit in with public expectation and present a slate that not only has the “wow” appeal but is considered winnable.

Both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin have been telling Barisan component parties to pick winnable candidates for the big battle ahead. Although some veteran political players are sure to get fielded, the bulk of the Barisan candidates is expected to come from the below 40's age group.

Age is a crucial factor in picking the right candidate because most of the 14 million voters are below the age of 40. A candidate to represent them should necessarily come from this age bracket. In 2008, Pakatan Rakyat fielded many young people as candidates and they made a major impact with the voters giving the coalition victory in 82 parliamentary seats. They played the guitar, sang songs and wooed voters in new and imaginative ways, including through cyberspace. People like Elizabeth Wong, Jeff Ooi, Tony Pua, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Liew Chin Tong and Tian Chua come to mind as candidates who were easily voted in with large majorities.

Barisan has learnt a hard lesson in 2008 and now wants “winnable candidates” to carry its flag. But just who are the winnable candidates? What are their attributes?

Najib says a winnable candidate is humble, outgoing and close to the people.

A winnable candidate is also a good speaker, communicator and have a good command of Bahasa Malaysia.

Because outside of the 40 or so Chinese-majority seats where a command of Mandarin and the Chinese dialects is necessary, the bulk of the constituencies have Malay-majority voters and Malay proficiency is a must.

A winnable candidate must be able to woo the Malay electorate in an effective and efficient manner and be willing to stand before them and speak in their language. Gone are the days when a Barisan Nasional candidate could pronounce “latuk” (for Datuk) and get away with it. He must also not have any criminal record, real or perceived.

There was a MIC candidate in the last election that did not have a criminal record but the voters widely believed that he was involved in “hanky panky.” Because of that he lost by a wide margin. A winnable candidate is also a candidate who does not have any “moral” questions hanging over him, including ethical ones.

Having a good moral and ethics are paramount considerations for voters in choosing the candidates. And in the changed political landscape there are no secrets, big or small, that a candidate can hide. He or she must be an open book, constantly open for public scrutiny, twenty-four seven. Immoral behaviour, no matter how frivolous, becomes the subject of gossip and it is bad for a “winnable” candidate because the other side will use and exploit it to the fullest.

A winnable candidate is also financially sound. His finance will come for scrutiny and in this age of appropriate behaviour, everything counts. Proper management of one's finance is an indicator of sound character and good behaviour and leads to an excellent wakil rakyat.

The winnable candidates that the Barisan is searching would come under greater scrutiny, both by Pakatan Rakyat opponents and above all, by the voters. The voters want a younger slate from the ruling coalition. They also want clean, morally upright candidates. The next general election is crucial for Barisan because it has to convince voters that it is transforming and leading the change that the country sorely needs.

It has to convince voters that it is the coalition to lead the country. And to do that it has to field a slate of candidates who not only have the “wow” factor but are also younger, cleaner, morally upright and financially sound. And above all, the winnable candidates are a cut above their Pakatan Rakyat opponents. Only than would voters, the bulk of them younger and newly-registered, be convinced to throw their support behind Barisan.


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