[TMI] : PKR pins hopes on working class votes

By Shannon Teoh
June 22, 2011
PKR are counting on the wrath of middle-income earners who have seen their ringgit shrink over the years. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — PKR’s newly launched Demi Rakyat campaign seeks to tap into the frustrations of the urban and semi-urban working class seeking higher purchasing power, a demographic party leaders say forms over 60 per cent of the electorate in seats being contested.

With real wages stagnating, the Barisan Nasional (BN) government has admitted that it needs to address a “middle-income trap” as it grapples with surging inflation that hit a two-year high in March, climbed to 3.3 per cent in May and looks set to rise further due to subsidy cuts used to rein in a record budget deficit.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will launch a no-frills grocery shop in Kelana Jaya this evening to reflect corporate Malaysia and his government’s concern for the people, but PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli said the party’s Demi Rakyat (For The People) campaign will be internet-driven and target those between the ages of 25 and 45 who are earning RM3,000 or less per month.

“These are people who are pessimistic about the economy. They don’t believe they will be able to buy a house like their parents did.

“From Perlis to Johor, the message from the working class is the same, across racial lines — they want economic opportunities and social mobility,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Anwar Ibrahim is all ears at a local coffee shop in Kelana Jaya. — Picture by Shannon Teoh

PKR believes it can tap into a growing online community, especially in urban and semi-urban areas where nearly all the 79 seats it contested in the last general election are located.

With prices of laptops falling and an increasing prevalence of smartphones, the barrier to internet access and literacy has fallen swiftly, as evidenced by the 9.5 million Malaysian Facebook users registered at the beginning of the year — over a third of the country’s population.

“We want to be at the cutting edge. That is why Demi Rakyat is using YouTube to show videos now. This age group are trendsetters and opinion shapers,” Rafizi said.

He added that the party needed to move beyond its “Reformasi” image, where it is seen as confrontational and radical, to one that is also sophisticated and able to respond to voters’ demands.

“They know the situation is screwed up but they are asking if PKR is the answer,” Rafizi said.

Real wages were reported to have dropped dramatically since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

In 2009, The World Bank reported that the growth in real wages, which refers to wages that have been adjusted for inflation, had reduced significantly to 1.9 per cent per year post-crisis from 5.6 per cent for export-oriented industries, while the rate was only 1.4 per cent for domestic-orientated industries post-crisis compared to 6.8 per cent previously.

The need to rein in a budget deficit that hit two-decade high of seven per cent in 2009 has forced the Najib administration to slash subsidies to essential items such as fuel, electricity and sugar, sparking public anger ahead of a general election expected within the year.

PKR along with electoral partners DAP and PAS achieved landmark gains in Election 2008, winning five states and denying BN its customary two-thirds majority of Parliament by winning 82 federal seats.

The three parties formed the Pakatan Rakyat coalition soon after, with PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as its prime minister-in-waiting.

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