SIMON Sinek’s earlier book tells us to always start by asking why. The “why” of something is what drives people into throwing their passion into their work and their actions. He uses this to describe how Apple manages to entice customers.
Similarly, if you read Naomi Klein’s book on corporations, she tells us that products such as Apple’s devices are not just marketing an electronic device, it is about selling a brand.
With these two concepts, enter Pakatan Harapan. So why should one vote for Pakatan Harapan?
Well, because they wish to reduce corruption, end kleptocracy, save the nation, ensure equality somewhat for everyone, and even look towards correcting whatever else is wrong in this country – like how the Premier League isn’t shown on television.
Personally, I didn’t even know that was a wrong thing since I don’t watch football. Either I’ve been blind to that fact, or the enticement of free football is pure escapism, but let’s get back to the topic at hand.
Pakatan’s brand has always been to right the multiple injustices in the country, or to use Star Wars pop-culture, to bring balance to The Force. Unfortunately, their narrative has been complicated by asking Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to become their candidate for prime minister.
And this is why in the last week, Pakatan Harapan supporters and politicians have gone out of their way barraging the press with letters voicing their support for Mahathir and how there is no better candidate to win the Malay votes.
Let us be frank – Pakatan needs Mahathir “only” to win the Malay votes. And for that, they have sacrificed their “why” – reducing corruption, end kleptocracy, ensure equality and correcting the wrongs in this country – for the chance to win over enough Malays to get into the seat of power.
And this is why I often joke that whenever Mahathir talks about all these topics, even at the anti-kleptocracy rally – does anyone bother carrying a mirror to give the messenger some hint of the very audacity of the whole situation?
Subsequently, you will notice that Pakatan supporters – the ones who chided Mahathir as “Mahafiraun” or even “Mahazalim”, have now had to come out to undo this narrative of an evil old dictator rivalling Mugabe which they have been selling for a decade.
And it isn’t working. Instead, Malaysians who were hardcore Pakatan Rakyat supporters now look at the pro-opposition activists in confusion.
One example of this is Hishamuddin Rais, who for so long condemned Mahathir as the major cause of the problems in Malaysia. And yet, at a forum last week, he was open enough to admit all that can be put aside because he wants to get rid of Umno, not Mahathir.
And yet, here is the self professed non-government individual, in his own words in 2006, published in Central Market’s The Rice Cooker Shop. The title? Mahathir dan Labu-Labinya. In it Hisham admits that he would rather “trust Ibrahim Ali than Mahathir”, and how he revels in the fact that Mahathir had been abandoned by his own supporters.
Similarly, you have Mariam Mokhtar writing in asking who if not Mahathir. Her readers are just as confused, because this is contrary to everything she has stood for as highlighted in her Malaysiakini column in 2013 entitled “Apa lagi Mahathir mahu?”.
In her own words: “Until we get a change in government, only one man can stop Mahathir’s deleterious effects on the nation – Najib Abdul Razak – but he either won’t or can’t bring himself to perform this saintly task. Such is the hold that Mahathir has over Najib.”
And yet, now she is backing Mahathir to the hilt because she wants that change in government, even if it is with the man who “cares for nothing but the continuation of his legacy, through his son, Mukhriz”.
This is Pakatan Harapan’s problem and why they will lose voters more than they gain. Primarily, it is because the Malays don’t vote for persona, they vote for brands – we have seen this with Semangat 46 even with the support of Tun Hussein Onn and Tunku Abdul Rahman, we have seen this with Onn Jaafar and his Parti Negara. Pakatan’s bet is that this will be proven untrue.
Second, their problem is that they have tainted their own brand, their own “why” by admitting the very person they accused of causing various problems. They used Mahathir as their scapegoat and now it seems they are using him as their idol.
French philosopher Jacques Ellul wrote that once propaganda has crystallised, confusion will ensue when you try and change the narrative. This sums up the problem Pakatan is facing. After 10 years of selling the same message, they now have to market something that has turned 180 degrees in less than two months.
And that confusion, that hypocrisy by their supporters, that double standard worthy of the very people they are trying to oust, will lose them the election.
Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner