Understanding the voters’ psyche (UPDATED with Chinese Translation)

Currently, the election campaign is based on who do you want as the next Prime Minister: Najib Tun Razak or Anwar Ibrahim? If you want Najib then vote Barisan Nasional. If you don’t want Najib then vote Pakatan Rakyat. And if Pakatan Rakyat wins then you will get Anwar Ibrahim.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Umno is going to deploy 63,000 information agents (campaigners), helped by 3.3 million Umno members, to spread the good word throughout the land. I suppose you can call this carpet-bombing. Drop 100,000 bombs and at least 10,000 will hit the target. And all you need is 1,000 well-placed bombs to flatten the city.

That is how the law of averages works.

If you have tons of money you can afford to do this. Blow RM100 million on a massive information campaign and some of that money will do the trick. But if you are working on a shoestring budget and have only RM100,000 (not RM100 million) to spend, then you must make every ringgit count.

The bottom line is, he with the most money wins the war. It’s all about money. That’s why America always wins the war. It is because they have more money to spend. (Other than in Vietnam, of course: North Vietnam had more soldiers than America had bullets, as what Ho Chi Minh told America).

Before both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat start blowing hundreds of millions on an information war, let me enlighten you on the voters’ psyche. Ask any political strategist worth his salt (like the Germans, Americans, Brits, etc.) and they will tell you one thing: most voters are selfish.

Yes, this was what one renowned German political strategist told me. Voters are selfish. They are not going to vote for you so that you can gain power. They are going to vote for you based on ‘what’s in it for me?’ Whether it is in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the US, or anywhere, it is based on ‘what’s in it for me?’

Let me put it this way. Say you tell the voters that if you vote for Pakatan Rakyat then we will see zero corruption in Malaysia. However, taxes will have to be doubled.

You will not get their vote.

Then you tell the voters that if you vote for Barisan Nasional there will be no guarantee that corruption will be reduced. In fact, it may even increase. But Malaysians will see more money in their pockets.

Who do you think the voters will vote for?

Okay, I know, you will insist that you will vote for the government that will eliminate corruption. But if you have a job, a house, two or three cars, savings in the bank, etc., then you will vote for a government that is clean. There are no two ways about it.

However, this is okay if you have no money problems. But if you are facing bankruptcy and if you do not know whether next month the bank is going to foreclose on your house because you are six months behind in your mortgage payments or whether the repossessors are going to come take your car because you have not been paying your car instalments, then money is very important. A clean government is of no use to you if you are begging on the streets.

So it is about money when you have no money. You can only entertain ‘ideals’, ‘principles’ and ‘values’ when you are financially quite comfortable.

As what the German chap told me, voters are very selfish. If they need to sacrifice and suffer for the sake of voting for you that will not happen. They will first ask, “What’s in it for me?”

Currently, the election campaign is based on who do you want as the next Prime Minister: Najib Tun Razak or Anwar Ibrahim? If you want Najib then vote Barisan Nasional. If you don’t want Najib then vote Pakatan Rakyat. And if Pakatan Rakyat wins then you will get Anwar Ibrahim.

I know the handful of readers who post comments in Malaysia Today will say that they don’t want Najib. And since they don’t want Najib they will choose Anwar since there is no other alternative other than Anwar.

Why do they want Anwar? Because they don’t want Najib. In fact, they not only don’t want Najib but they don’t want Umno or anyone from Umno. So they will vote Pakatan Rakyat.

Hence we have ABU (anything but Umno). ABU is not about what we want. It is about what we don’t want. We don’t want Umno. So what is it that we want then? We want anything but Umno.

Is this a winning strategy? Yes and no. It all depends.

In 1999, it was about anything but Mahathir (ABM). But when Dr Mahathir resigned in 2003 and handed over the reins to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the ABM died and the voters went back to Umno. And the opposition almost got wiped out.

That was why and when we launched Malaysia Today (plus the many other pro-opposition blogs). We realised that ABM had a short shelf life so we needed a new approach. And the German strategist told us back in 2000 that ABM had a short shelf life but we did not listen. We continued with ABM and when Mahathir resigned we went dead in the water.

Then, lo and behold, Dr Mahathir ‘joined’ the opposition in 2006 and asked the Umno members to vote ABU. And suddenly the opposition gained lost ground, as the 2008 GE proved.

But that was about it. 82 Parliament seats and five states (now down to four) was all that ABU could achieve. Can ABU retain the five states (or maybe make it six with Negeri Sembilan added to that list) and maybe increase its Parliament seats to 90-95 from less than 80 now? Even if it can it will still not allow Pakatan Rakyat to form the next federal government and enable Anwar to become the next Prime Minister.

Remember the 30:40:30 ratio I was talking about in an earlier posting? 30% of the voters are pro-government and there is nothing you can do to change this. 30% are pro-opposition (most of you who are reading this) and there is nothing you can do to change this. Then we have the 40% floaters or fence sitters who will swing one way or another and who will vote based on ‘what’s in it for me?’

Forget about the 30%. This group is quite ‘locked’ and to work on them would invoke the law of diminishing returns. You need to work on the 40%. That is the group that is going to give you the next federal government.

And this is the group that Umno is now targeting with the 63,000 information agents they are about to deploy. They are not bothered about those of you who read Malaysia Today. They know you are ABU. They know you will vote for a donkey or a monkey as long as it is not Barisan Nasional or Umno (this was what I told Anwar when we met in London back in 2010). This is the emotional and irrational group that can never be swayed. Umno does not care two hoots about you. It is the 40% that matters and this is the group that Umno is going to work on to ensure that they remain the government for another 50 years.

Oh, and one more thing, don’t be too impressed with the 5,000 or 10,000 who come out to attend opposition ceramahs. You are merely preaching to the converted. These people are going to vote opposition anyway, never mind what you do and say. It is the 40% who don’t attend opposition ceramahs that matter, the group that the 63,000 Umno information agents are about to tackle.

I will stop here for now and maybe I will continue tomorrow with a lesson regarding philosophy. Yes, there are courses being run in England called Philosophy of Politics. I suggest you take this course to better understand how to strategise.

Till we next talk, a happy CNY holiday to all of you.

Translated into Chinese at: http://ccliew.blogspot.com/2012/01/blog-post_25.html