By Ida Lim
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 — This year’s Chinese New Year celebrations see politicians from both Barisan Nasional (BN) and federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) eagerly taking the chance to reach out to voters, by sending out greetings with a subtle political flavour ahead of Election 2013.
DAP MP Teresa Kok recently starred in two light-hearted YouTube videos, posing as a restaurant “captain” and a hairdresser, in which she said carried “subtle political messages” to “encourage people to dare to bring political change in the country.”
In the first video titled “Dare to Try”, a group of friends at a restaurant are seen discussing in the Cantonese dialect a list of new dishes that appear to be a parody of several hot issues in the country, with English subtitles showing names such as “I help u-U help me-U eat yourself” buffet, Super Beef Set Meal, Bentong jump river fried ears.”
Kok then pops out and introduces new dishes, before saying “let’s discard the old and change to new things in this New Year. Dare to try!”
The second video titled “Dare to Change” in Mandarin sees Kok successfully convincing a customer to change his hairstyle, in what appears to be a reference to PR’s call for a change in the government.
Kok noted that eating new dishes and having new hairstyles is “part and parcel” of the Chinese New Year celebrations for the Chinese community.
“I think the reasons these two video clips become popular are because the content and issues are creatively presented, they are close to their hearts, and most importantly they like the message of ‘dare to try and dare to change’,” Kok wrote in an email to The Malaysian Insider.
The lawmaker said a friend from the advertising industry had came up with the idea for the YouTube videos — a first for Kok who usually sends out greeting cards — with the observation that spreading the message online would be more efficient than distributing physical cards.
Deputy Education Minister Datuk Wee Ka Siong from political rival MCA also took things up a notch for those receiving his greeting cards this year, in an apparent nod to young tech-savvy voters.
An interactive virtual card and a 3D animation resembling Wee can be seen on smartphones after an application is downloaded and the physical greeting card is scanned.
A video clip of Wee, the Youth leader of the traditionally Chinese-based BN component party, can then be viewed inside the virtual greeting card on smartphones.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has also appeared in radio and television advertisements giving Chinese New Year greetings in what is seen as a move to endear himself to those from the Chinese community.
In a brief television commercial, glimpses of Najib dressed in a red traditional Chinese suit are shown, with a little girl handing him a small drum and asking if he knows how to play the instrument.
Najib later appears in the commercial, energetically beating on a Chinese drum during a lion dance scene.
The commercial also shows the same girl whispering to the BN chairman as he listens intently, with subtitles saying “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, before ending with a smiling Najib wishing viewers the same.
Najib was also reported by The Star Online to have greeted Malaysians in Mandarin in a 40-second clip that has been aired on 11 radio stations since February 4.
The Umno president was heard learning to pronounce his own name and speak in Mandarin, while his youngest son Nor Ashman — who studied the language at university — was heard correcting him, The Star Online reported.
The news portal reported the duo discussing the definition of their names in Mandarin, with Najib saying that his carried the meaning of “to embrace luck and all positive things in life”, while Nor Ashman said his was “Si ji ping an (Peace for all seasons)”.
The radio commercial, which ended with Najib and Nor Ashman wishing Malaysians “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, is on top of the greeting cards usually sent out by the prime minister, his political secretary Wong Nai Chee reportedly said.
These two advertisements, along with banners of Najib dressed in a Chinese suit that have sprouted up notably in the Klang Valley and Penang, appear to be the first of its kind for the nation’s line of prime ministers.
The banners also sport a BN logo and the logo of 1 Malaysia, a concept introduced by Najib’s administration.
The DAP, widely-viewed as a largely Chinese-based party, had earlier this week launched its “Spark the Change” campaign with the aim to get those living in the urban areas to spread the opposition’s message and publicity materials when they return to their hometowns during the festive season.
The DAP’s publicity chief Tony Pua had acknowledged that the party was strongest in the urban areas and weakest in the rural constituencies, hoping this campaign will change the situation.
His colleague, Teo Nie Ching, the party’s assistant publicity secretary, said their materials will provide more “facts and figures” in conversations about Election 2013, which she said is likely to be a key topic during gatherings this Chinese New Year.
The Chinese, who are the second-largest ethnic group in the country, had previously been described by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the “kingmakers” in the 13th general election.