Johor polls: PKR's going solo on logo - a branding gamble


AFTER a failed gamble in Melaka, PKR is taking another risky step by going solo in the Johor state election - but this time, the party believes it will pay off.

Against the advice of its Pakatan Harapan allies, PKR is again putting all its chips into one game, just as it did when it allowed Datuk Seri Idris Haron and Datuk Nor Azman Hassan, both formerly Umno members, to contest under Pakatan's banner during the Melaka state election in November.

PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's decision to field the two defectors - who helped pull the rug from under the Melaka government on Oct 4 last year - as PKR candidates, caused much friction with DAP.

And it backfired spectacularly when PKR was wiped out in the state and DAP was left with only four seats, half of its earlier number.

Fresh from licking its wounds after the thrashing in Melaka and another major defeat in Sarawak last year, PKR knows it is a dangerous game. However, the party must be secretly confident that this gamble will pay off to go ahead with it.

PKR is banking on the fact that its logo is a better brand because it was used successfully by all Pakatan component parties in the 14th general election (GE14) in 2018.

Then, Pakatan wrested the Federal Government but the Sheraton Move saw the government collapse after just 22 months.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) president Mohamad Sabu however, differ, saying that the Pakatan logo was even used by Anwar himself in the Port Dickson by-election in 2018.

"Upon winning the 2018 general election, Pakatan became a registered entity with an approved logo, which Anwar himself adopted successfully in the Port Dickson by-election," the duo said in a statement.

Anwar won the Port Dickson by-election in October 2018 with an overwhelming majority of 23,560 votes after he secured 31,016 votes in a seven-cornered fight despite a low turnout of only 58.25%.

Whether the victory was achieved due to the logo, Anwar’s personality, or the sweeping desire for change in the country, is a question that remains.

PKR's argument is that the Pakatan logo turned out to be a dismal failure in the Melaka state election where it lost all the 11 seats it contested.

DAP saw its number of seats halved while Amanah only won one.

Universiti Malaya political analyst Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi believes PKR wanted to use its own logo because the Pakatan label is associated with the "failed government" image propagated by their political opponents after the Sheraton Move.

"PKR does not want to be associated with that, because it was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad - then the chairman of Pakatan - who played a major role in the collapse of the government when he resigned as prime minister," he said.

Awang Azman also said the PKR grassroots felt that the party logo was better known to the public, given its longer presence in politics.

"They are also hoping to revive the 'reformasi' spirit that was prevalent in 2018, so that voter turnout could be high in Johor."

Azmi Hassan, a Senior Fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research NASR, said PKR was probably confident about the logo because it was the brand that brought the unprecedented victory in May, 2018.

However, Azmi pointed out that sentiments towards PKR have changed now, again pointing to the party’s wipeout in Sarawak.

"They did not fare any better than DAP. So, the arguments that they are confident about the PKR logo just do not hold any water," added Azmi.

The Sarawak state elections in December saw PKR losing all the 28 seats it contested in and Amanah lost in all the eight seats they contested, while DAP merely won two seats.

PKR, Amanah and DAP all contested under their own party logos in Sarawak.

Azmi stressed that unity among the Opposition was vital in the upcoming Johor state election and said Pakatan should have learnt from its disastrous outing in the Melaka and Sarawak state election last year.

He said the discord within Pakatan parties started several years back when DAP and Amanah proposed Parti Warisan president Shafie Apdal as the prime ministerial candidate over Anwar.

"His (Anwar’s) days look to be numbered. DAP and Amanah are quite suspicious and Anwar may not lead Pakatan when the 15th general election comes," said Azmi.

With the opposition unable to even decide on a common logo, the Johor election promises to be one that could see many-cornered fights and the political temperatures continue to rise.

The outcome of the Johor election will be crucial, as it could well give a clear indication of how the 15th general election (GE15) will go, and how the new voters under Undi18 will swing.

The Opposition has a lot to do. First, they have to overcome the humiliating defeats in Melaka and Sarawak to get their act together and prove themselves in Johor ahead of the possible general election.

It is especially crucial for Anwar – if he still harbours the desire to be prime minister.

So far, though, there is little reason to be optimistic about that.

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