Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak made a most interesting comment today about Umno members requiring ‘2K’ -- knowledge and kemahiran (skill) -- to be able to win back the support of the urban voters.
Actually, this has been a problem that the ruling party -- in the beginning the Alliance Party and, later, Barisan Nasional -- has been facing since 35 years ago back in 1969.
Even 35 years ago the urban voters have been voting opposition, or, more accurately, have been voting anti-establishment, which is more or less the same the world over.
Take Thailand as an example. The anti-government protest was mainly in Bangkok while the rural population supported the government. And the same happened in Jakarta, Manila, Hong Kong, and so on.
So Malaysia is no different and in 1969 the Alliance Party realised it was losing the support of the urban population when it formed Barisan Nasional and brought the opposition parties such as PAS, Gerakan, PPP, etc., into the ruling coalition.
In 1969, the Alliance Party almost lost Perak and Selangor, and it did lose Penang and Kelantan. In 1974, after Barisan Nasional was formed, it would have lost Selangor if not for the fact that Kuala Lumpur was turned into Federal Territory and hence Selangor was saved from falling into the hands of the opposition since the loss of Kuala Lumpur to the opposition no longer affected Selangor.
Urban voters are hard to please, the world over. This is because urban voters are more affluent than the rural voters so they do not need the government as much as the rural voters do. Therefore, to attract the support of the urban voters, Umno can no longer play ‘kampung politics’.
This is what the 2K should be all about. Umno must have the knowledge and skill regarding what the urban voters expect and how to live up to those expectations. Because of the Internet and other modern and efficient modes of communication, politics the world over has become more sophisticated. The voters, especially in the urban areas, are now better informed.
So the Prime Minister is correct in saying that Umno has to become more knowledgeable and skilled if it wants to win back the support of the urban voters.
Much of the political strategies of the past no longer apply to the urban voters. The expectation of the urban voters is very high and unless Umno can manage these expectations the next general election is going to be an uphill battle.