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Psy gallops in as BN strives to win Penang voters' hearts

Psy performing on stage at Barisan Nasional's Chinese New Year open house in Penang yesterday. (PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK)

Publication Date : 12-02-2013


Fans turn up at a CNY party hosted by the Barisan Nasional to cheer the Korean star


As South Korean superstar Psy galloped onto the stage with his Gangnam Style moves, he was cheered by the frenzied thousands who turned up at the Chinese New Year party hosted by the Barisan Nasional (BN) in the opposition-held Penang state.

The federal ruling coalition attracted tens of thousands to see Psy perform at its open house in Georgetown yesterday, as it stepped up its campaign to woo Penangites before the general election to be called within weeks.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who hosted the open house, told the people that he was celebrating the Chinese New Year in Penang to get closer to them.

"I am listening to the people of Penang who want more affordable housing. I want to commit that we will deliver 20,000 units of affordable houses in the next five years," he said.

"I commit the government to solving traffic woes here by implementing a monorail system," he added before Psy performed his hit song "Gangnam Style", backed by a Korean dance group.

Datuk Seri Najib was spending two days on the Pakatan Rakyat-held island as he sought to kick-start a campaign to regain Penang, which the BN lost in the 2008 general election.

It will be a tough challenge, however, as the large Chinese community in Penang and elsewhere in Malaysia is seen as largely supportive of the opposition.

Najib has even made a Chinese New Year video depicting him playing the Chinese drums for a lion dance as he extended his best wishes for the festival.

"The underpinning message in the video is the show of respect to the Chinese culture," he was quoted as saying in the New Straits Times. "And of course I had to learn how to play the drum."

As the general election looms, this is Najib's second visit to Penang in as many months, while Deputy Premier Muhyiddin Yassin visited the island last week.

Besides promising 20,000 new affordable houses and a monorail, the federal government has also announced that a second bridge linking Penang to the mainland will be ready this year.

In response, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng swiftly reminded the people that his administration would build a tunnel to link the island to the mainland if it was returned to power.

Indeed, Penang voters have never had it so good.

Professor James Chin, an analyst with the Singapore-based Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, said the BN was making strenuous efforts as it needed to put up a good showing in Penang if it wanted to remain a credible multiracial coalition.

The BN's newfound fighting spirit in Penang has stirred wariness among the Pakatan Rakyat, which had become accustomed to seeing the coalition's barely active state apparatus over the last five years.

Liew Chin Tong, a Democratic Action Party (DAP) strategist who is also an MP in Penang, believes that the BN is taking the battle into Penang to force the DAP to focus its resources on this island.

"This is to keep Lim Guan Eng focused here instead of moving about the country to rally the people," he said, adding that the BN is also aiming to attack what it perceives to be the weak points of the Penang government.

But he insisted that the strategy will not work because Penangites know that the BN government has not been able to solve similar housing and traffic woes in Kuala Lumpur.

"They are not so easily swayed. They know the Penang transport policy, for instance, is controlled by the federal government," he said.

Some analysts also say the BN's resurgent fighting spirit has come late in the day and they are sceptical it can make real inroads into Penang because Lim remains popular among the people.

Nicole Yeoh, 22, a first-time Penang voter, was dismissive of yesterday's Psy party.

"The BN is not doing anything to benefit us. It's just recently that they started making promises, and it appears shallow to me," said the advertising strategic planner.


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