PETALING JAYA, Oct 15 —Thousands attended Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) anti-kleptocracy rally last night, defying the police who called the event unsanctioned.
Despite the warnings of possible chaos, the rally took place at Padang Timur here without incident.
What was also absent was the usual support; the rally was only able to attract around half its targeted turnout of 10,000, which was already reduced from the original target of 30,000.
Here are three things we learned from the “Love Malaysia, Eliminate Kleptocracy” rally.
The message did not resonate
While sounding grandiose, the call to “eliminate kleptocracy” appeared to lack traction with attendees.
Rather than fired up, the crowd was unmoved by the many speeches and cues to support calls for better governance and transparency.
As one Opposition leader after another took turns to denounce the Najib administration, attendees responded mutedly.
The clarion call of “reformasi”, so often associated with the imprisoned Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, also failed to rouse the crowd.
A far cry from the atmosphere and passion of previous rallies.
Poor turnout, especially from youths
Organisers initially announced they were targeting to amass 30,000 people for the rally. As the days wore by, this became 10,000.
On the night itself, about 5,000 or so turned up.
More noticeable than the thin crowd was the absence of younger leaders and supporters, who had been prominent in previous rallies such as the Bersih protests.
With rumblings that youths were becoming disenchanted with politics, Pakatan Harapan appear to be working against the clock to reignite support among the group that is customarily anti-establishment, heading into the general election.
Bread-and-butter concerns still key
While Pakatan Harapan sought to remind supporters about the scale of the alleged leakages in the government, it was clear that the issues that moved attendees most were not of kleptocrats and stolen billions, but daily concerns such as rising costs.
The crowd became fired up when DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng began talking about topics such as the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) and the goods and services tax (GST).
The crowd cheered and clapped when the Bagan MP promised to repeal the GST, and hooted even louder when he vowed that PH would not remove the cash handouts despite the frequent denigrations.
The reaction was equally ecstatic when PPBM chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pledged to offer more scholarships, and reinstate sugar and petrol subsidies.
When it comes to what mattered most to supporters, the rally showed that Pakatan Harapan was majoring in the minors.