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Friday, July 15, 2011

Analysts: Bad press won’t unseat Najib

Sulaiman Kamal | 10:26 PM | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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They say the negative publicity about anti-Bersih actions will have minimal electoral impact

KUALA LUMPUR: The international media’s attack on the Najib administration over its handling of the July 9 Bersih rally will not threaten Barisan Nasional’s grip on 
Putrajaya, according to two political analysts.

They said the negative publicity would have minimal electoral impact although it bolstered anti-BN sentiment among younger voters and reinforced their distrust of the local mainstream media.
“I don’t think it would affect anything on the ground,” said UCSI lecturer on public policies Ong Kian Ming, adding that the slew of criticism could in fact put off a majority of voters.
He said the foreign media assault might easily be interpreted as encroachment by “western imperialism”, a theme adopted by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad to counter international pressure on his administration during the 1998 “Reformasi” uprising.
Putrajaya’s response to Bersih has led to widespread criticism from the international media, including influential newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian, the television channel Al-Jazeera and also top regional newspapers like the Singapore Straits Times and Jakarta Post.
Observers have noted that the July 9 march had received more international attention than Bersih’s 2007 rally although there were significantly more participants in the first protest.
Pakatan Rakyat leaders believe the augmented media and Internet buzz means growing support for the opposition, but Ong disagrees, saying that the limelight on Bersih would have minimal electoral impact although it would sustain an anti-government momentum.
Ong explained the difference between the press given to the first and second Bersih rallies. To him, the latter received wider coverage because of its context rather than because of growing support for the opposition.
“I think we have been compared to the Arab Spring,” he said. “Also there is more awareness because the ruling coalition is more frail now as compared to 2007.”
Huge gap
Ibrahim Suffian, director of the independent polling house Merdeka Centre, echoed Ong’s view that negative media attention did mean an electoral setback for BN.
Be he said foreign media coverage of the rally revealed a huge “gap” between what the government claimed had transpired at the rally and the ground reality.
While foreign media have shown evidence of police aggression, government-owned mainstream media have gone all out to justify police actions.
“It reveals a dichotomy between how the local and foreign media reported the event,” he told FMT, adding that he believed the international attention on Bersih was the not the work of the group itself but of BN’s own mismanagement of the issue.
This echoed an opinion expressed by Bersih leader S Ambiga, who said the public’s strong support for the rally was made possible by the Najib administration’s hard clampdown in the build up to the event.
But while noting that the “absurd” dragnet had drawn in widespread international criticism on the ruling coalition, Ibrahim said the only pressure on Najib was to explain his government’s actions to the international community.

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