|The “war room” from movie “Dr. Strange Love: or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb.”|
When Prime Minister, Churchill visited his Cabinet Room in May 1940, he declared: 'This is the room from which I will direct the war'.
That cabinet room became known as Churchill's war room and he held 115 Cabinet meetings till 28 March 1945, when the German V-weapon bombing campaign ended. [Read Wikipedia here.]
Barisan Nasional introduced the concept of war room to direct and monitor it's political campaign in the recent general election.
One can expect the room is filled with people, computers and information on candidates, contested seats, opposition, campaign message and issues, news, polls, projections, etc. for the generals to work out campaign strategy/ies.
However, did the war room helped make BN's political battle as strategically organised, disciplined and dedicated, and precise like any military campaign?
The Malaysian Insider's Editor, Jahabar Sadiq wrote a report on BN's war room. Off course one can't be too trusting of MI. However, Utusan Malaysia carried a report on this similar issue and Johor blogger, Mael Pengerang here posted something on the war room too.
The American Heritage Dictionary described war room as "a room in which strategic decisions, especially for a military or political campaign, are made."
Essentially, a war room is filled with members with specific expertise and authorities, and latest available information to assist strategic and tactical decision making to guide the ground troops.
We like to share and comment on Jahabar's report which to the best of our knowledge, there is some truth, some spinning and some was based on ill-informed source. Nevertheless, it is something worth pondering for BN, if their wish to learn something fast out of it:
BN’s reduced wins put spotlight on ‘war room’ strategists
May 14, 2013
The Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — Questions are being asked about Barisan Nasional’s (BN) “war room” strategists whose plans with a substantial budget did not appear to stop the ruling coalition from losing more federal and state seats in the May 5 general election.
The BN war room was tasked with selecting the candidates and advising various strategies to win the polls. It counts Rompin MP Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis, PWTC chairman Datuk Seri Dr Alies Anor Abdul, Petronas director Omar Mustapha Ong, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor, party information chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan and former minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh as among its members.
The war room seem useful as a guide to assist Ahmad Maslan and other party leaders carry out their work, but one wonders who was the Churchill that provide the leadership and gave strategic direction to the war room.
And, did Ahmad Maslan and the various branches of ground troopers manage to execute their instructions?
A source inside hinted the war room as a hot place to be with too many clashing egos that operationally led to it's ineffectiveness. So did "too many generals spoil the battle"? Or were the generals suitable for today's political warfare?
Read to hear Jahabar's source complained:
“It was just a crapshoot. Their ideas didn’t work and their white list predictions were wrong,” a senior Umno divisional leader told The Malaysian Insider on condition of anonymity.Opps .. that 118 white list.
The war room had stuck to its prediction of BN winning between 145 and 150 federal seats and also getting back Selangor in Election 2013 although some senior BN leaders were privately doubtful of the figures.
And by noon on Polling Day, the war room had issued its “white list” of 118 federal seats it was sure to win, but some like Pasir Mas, Shah Alam and Lembah Pantai were lost, which some Umno divisional leaders said reflected the disconnect between the leadership and the ground.
The subsequent part of the report could not be confirmed but it smells some spinning to fill up MI's political agenda for the opposition offensive psywar. We grey out the following comment on Dato Zulkifli Nordin.
Poster boy of Umno’s insensitivities
The Malaysian Insider also learnt that Jamaluddin was behind BN putting Perkasa vice-president Datuk Zulkifli Noordin as their direct Shah Alam candidate despite his controversial remarks that offended Indians about their Hindu faith.
It was understood that Jamaluddin felt that Zulkifli’s candidacy would not be too much trouble as the latter had already apologised to the Indians for his remarks which he claimed were made when in PAS.
But sources said the strategist did not consider that Zulkifli would become the poster boy of Umno’s disregard for sensitivities of non-Malays.
“The most galling thing is they put Shah Alam on the white list because they thought the Malay majority there would support Zulkifli. How wrong they were,” said an Umno source, commenting on the strategy that backfired.
On the contrary, Jahabar.
In our opinion, BN's machinery could not match the well oiled PAS's Shah Alam machinery already with the head start for Zulkifli to fight.While a large portion of PAS members, supporters and sympathisers are not keen to the liberal ways of Khalid Samad, they are reminded of Zulkifli's excessiveness in his days with PAS. It is compounded further by the insufficient time for Zulkifli to shed the misperception of a political frog changing partisanship for political convenience.
Back to further comment on the war room:
“There are conservatives with a big ‘C’ and there are conservatives with a small ‘c’. The strategists just did a desktop analysis but did not figure that there are new voters apart from substantial number of Chinese and Indians there,” he added.
He explained that the desktop analysis done by the war room contributed to the belief that BN would do well and even get back its two-thirds parliamentary majority in Election 2008.
“You can’t assume that a Malay majority seat will go back to you or think that you can share the Chinese and Indian votes and later predict you win big nationally and Putrajaya,” said the source.
The subsequent part of the report is something new.
Another Umno source noted that BN had also outsourced some of the strategy to public relations and branding experts such as APCO’s Paul Stadlen and TV3’s Datuk Seri Ahmad Farid Ridzuan but it appeared to no avail.
Stadlen has been Putrajaya’s main contact with the international media while Farid had been seconded from TV3 parent, Media Prima Bhd, to the Prime Minister’s Department for the past few years.
“They were spending money on local newspapers with shrinking circulation and TV stations that did not appeal to the young. What a waste of time and money,” he said.
It has been estimated that BN had spent more than RM100 million directly and indirectly for the massive media campaign that encompassed print, television, billboards and online sites for Election 2013.
The source, who had been involved in election campaigns since 1999, said the war room had experienced people such as Idris, Tengku Adnan and Jamaluddin but they were incapable of fighting the new media or adapt strategies to attract votes from the younger generation.
.. in world of Hypermarket
“The mainstream media had blacked out the opposition but in the social media, whatever bad we or the mainstream media did, it was amplified online and made people hate us further. As it is, they don’t even read or watch what we do,” he added.
We also held the view that the communication strategy was too MSM-centric and lack understanding in the mechanics and proprietary knowledge on blog and social media.
One source told us that there is a study done and it mentioned the most effective political campaign instruments are ceramah and pamphlets "distribution game."
Both are areas BN is not strong.
|It didn't reach|
Furthermore, there was no clear psy-war gameplan. If there had been any relayed to the bloggers, it was not a psy-war gameplan but ad-hoc reaction.
By right, in areas or segments where BN can't think of a strategy or gameplan, they should emulate the opposition and do it better. Pakatan has the brain reserve from abroad to strategise for them.
And as raised in our previous posting, the party election machinery was generally complacent and not functioning.
For many years, the party bosses was made aware of the incompetence of Ahmad Maslan but for whatever reason/(s), they refused to heed and take the drastic action. Information Chef is supposed to strategise information dissemination and not be a weekend rubber tapper.
One source raised:
Election machinery meltdown
Other BN sources also pointed out that the coalition’s machinery did not appear to work as well as expected, in a repeat of what happened in Election 2008, against Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) machinery that comprised grassroots members and youths.
Hardworking but wasn't thinking far
“Ahmad Maslan proudly said there will be 66,600 ceramahs but where? It was so hard to even organise one because there were no speakers of national stature or from other component parties,” said a winning BN candidate who declined to be named.
“I had to do everything on my own and get people to speak in the one main ceramah I had,” he said, adding
“I saw others who were just talking to their election machinery.”
Despite the lack of help, the BN man said he did better than Senator Raja Datuk Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin, who lost in Lembah Pantai despite devoting his Federal Territory Ministry resources on the city constituency.
“Raja Nong Chik was a minister and he had focused City Hall’s efforts on Lembah Pantai but yet failed to win. The war room thought he would so they white listed that place but you can see how fallible they are,” he added.
Part of the reason for Raja Nong Chik's lost was that the war room failed to realised the implication of an expose by a Unit Media Baru blog member from Penang of an alleged sexual indiscretion by Nurul Izzah. The rating chaser fell for a PKR trap.
The public was already about express their disgust with personal attacks after the Stopa Spender episode. Nurul was sharp to sense it and capitalised the opportunity with her female tears. The report on Nurul is not right, so we greyed it.
Last-minute tactics switch
The BN sources agreed that the war room strategists had made assumptions without checking with local divisional officers and ground reports.
“There was so much raw data coming in but not much analysis as everyone kept to themselves for fear of leakage,” said one source.
“They also changed tactics without considering what had been done in the past few years on the ground,” he added, pointing out the last-minute switch for four-term Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman was one such mistake.
He said that the presumed MCA candidate Jason Teoh had done some ground over the past two years in Gelang Patah “but the war room panicked like MCA just because Lim Kit Siang was contesting there”.
“So, they thought Ghani can do the job but it was a massive loss as he doesn’t know the area well although his office is there. Perhaps Teoh could have done better as all he had to do was win over the Chinese voters,” said the source.
He added Lim’s presence with other top DAP leaders also cut BN’s popular votes and losses in the Umno bastion state.
“The machinery got frightened of Lim and just gave up,” he added.Sorry Jahabar ... the report on Ghani is also not quiet right.
We disagree. Your source is probably ill-informed. Naughty of you still trying to head-on the Malays and Chinese. The comment is not worth highlighting. It is left greyed.
The same ill-informed source continues:
The source said this was repeated in other states where DAP had made a big push, such as Negri Sembilan and Selangor but the war room strategists did not react as they were just focused on winning more federal seats.Each state had it's own war room to focus on the state's own campaign.
“There was just this huge disconnect. And that was reflected in the expected results and what we finally got,” he added.
|Too many cowboy lunatic pilot|
So it is not quite right. However, we will give the opinion due respect but for now, we are sticking with our view that BN poor performance was a case of Cinami, Calun and Complacency.
Bigdog has his own view of systematic failure in the system here. For other problems with war room operation, they can translate from this article here.
Our next posting will be on UMNO's attitude and foolishness in facing up to a general election that is an important crossroad in the party's history.
It is inconceivable such attitude could still persist in facing a Pakatan Rakyat that is organised, sophisticated and formidable by virtue of the foreign backing for a 'regime change'.
|The Generals failed|
We are trained in the classical strategic management and we aced it during our MBA. After strategies are formulated, the choice of General or CEO is an important step in implementing strategy.
For the important and strategic war room operation, it looks like the problem may have been at BN's strategy formulation process. In this political war, it was the generals who formulated the strategy.