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The social media election in Malaysia: The 13th general election in 2013

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The 13th General Election (GE13) of 2013 was historic because the Barisan Nasional (BN) won with a slightly reduced majority compared to the last general election in 2008 and surprisingly lost the popular votes to the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) for the first time since 1969. There was a huge swing from the urban and suburban constituencies toward supporting the PR. One of the major contributors to the result was the social media which was once again dominated by the PR, similar to what happened in 2008. Social media is trendy, cheap and easy to access especially for youths who made up half of the voters totalling 13.3 million. Online channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, news portals and blogs are popular and became the avenues for political parties from both BN and PR alike for campaigning and tools for the leaders and candidates to meet the electorates in respective constituencies. The impact was enormous for PR parties which were able to utilise it to their advantages, letting the 2013 general election become competitive and strengthening the democratic process in Malaysia. Thus, this article studies the correlation between the phenomena of social media and democracy. It then explores the conditions and effects of social media in Malaysia. Finally, this article analyses thoroughly the impact of social media in the GE13. Based on overall observation, the social media is still dominated by the PR. The election results reflect the influence of social media in Malaysian politics.
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Kajian Malaysia, Vol. 32, Supp. 2, 2014, 123–147
© Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia, 2014
THE SOCIAL MEDIA ELECTION IN MALAYSIA: THE 13TH
GENERAL ELECTION IN 2013
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani
School of International Studies, Universiti Utara Malaysia, 06010 Sintok, Kedah,
Malaysia
Email: azizuddin@uum.edu.my
The 13th General Election (GE13) of 2013 was historic because the Barisan
Nasional (BN) won with a slightly reduced majority compared to the last general
election in 2008 and surprisingly lost the popular votes to the Pakatan Rakyat
(PR) for the first time since 1969. There was a huge swing from the urban and
suburban constituencies toward supporting the PR. One of the major
contributors to the result was the social media which was once again dominated
by the PR, similar to what happened in 2008. Social media is trendy, cheap and
easy to access especially for youths who made up half of the voters totalling 13.3
million. Online channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, news portals and
blogs are popular and became the avenues for political parties from both BN and
PR alike for campaigning and tools for the leaders and candidates to meet the
electorates in respective constituencies. The impact was enormous for PR parties
which were able to utilise it to their advantages, letting the 2013 general election
become competitive and strengthening the democratic process in Malaysia. Thus,
this article studies the correlation between the phenomena of social media and
democracy. It then explores the conditions and effects of social media in
Malaysia. Finally, this article analyses thoroughly the impact of social media in
the GE13. Based on overall observation, the social media is still dominated by
the PR. The election results reflect the influence of social media in Malaysian
politics.
Keywords: social media, the 13th General Election, Malaysia, Barisan Nasional,
Pakatan Rakyat, democracy
INTRODUCTION
During the 12th General Election (GE12) of 8 March 2008, social media was
definitely an important instrument in promoting democracy unnoticed by the
ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) a coalition of 13 parties headed by the United
Malays National Organisation (UMNO), government. It opened up the space for
Malaysian citizens to deliberate political issues and gave opportunities for the
opposition to influence the election results. The government under-estimated the
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influence of social media on the Malaysian voters. With the policy of free
cyberspace, the social media has huge potential to strengthen the democratisation
process and democracy in Malaysia. Soon after GE12, on 25 March 2008, Prime
Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi astonishingly acknowledged that the BN
government lost the online war in the general election. He said that:
We didn't think it was important. It was a serious misjudgement.
We thought that the newspapers, the print media, the television
were important but young people were looking at text messages
and blogs. (The influence of alternative media) was painful. But
it came at the right time, not too late (New Straits Times, 2008).
This statement definitely shows the significant influence of new media or
the Internet on the society and during the general election until it almost toppled
the BN government. Now, social media like the blogs, news portal, Facebook,
Twitter and YouTube have become trendy, cheap and easy to access especially
for the youths. Realising how essential the social media had been to young voters
in the 13th General Election (GE13), Prime Minister Najib Razak said that GE13
was Malaysia's first social media election. After launching the Malaysia Social
Media Week 2013 summit on 27 February 2013, Najib emphasised, "Of course, it
(social media) will not be the biggest factor in the elections, but it is certainly
increasing the tempo of political debate" (Lim, 2013). Therefore, this article will
explore thoroughly the theoretical debate of social media vis-à-vis democracy.
Analysis will be done on the phenomena of social media in Malaysia. Finally, an
in-depth analysis will be done on the impact of social media to the outcome of
GE13 on 5 May 2013. This will determine which of the two political groupings,
either BN or the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) an alliance of three parties,
namely the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and
Democratic Action Party (DAP), has better exploited social media to their
benefits, which proved to be decisive on the results of the election.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION: A
THEORETICAL DEBATE
The term social media or "Web 2.0" refers to a new "wave" of Internet based
applications which enable greater interaction between user and application
through user generated content (Komito and Bates, 2009). Sites such as Bebo,
MySpace and Facebook were developed to allow individuals to post a variety of
different types of information on their own websites and link their websites to
those of their friends, thus the description of them as "social networking"
applications. Basically, social media can take many forms such as Internet
forums, news portals, weblogs, social blogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video.
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125
All these categories have functions that allow them to be democratically
interactive in ways unlike radio, television, or the highly edited letters columns of
newspapers and magazines. This content is varied, containing photographs,
video, text comments, and thus forming a rich media mosaic. Social media
supports democratisation of knowledge and information, transforming people
from being content consumers into content producers. Social media is distinct
from traditional media, such as newspapers, television and radio. While social
media are relatively inexpensive and accessible tools that enable anyone (even
ordinary individuals) to publish or access information, traditional media generally
require certain skills and resources to publish information. One feature shared by
both social media and traditional media is the capability to reach a small or large
audience. Social media obviously has a huge potential for democratisation.
Habermas (2006) argued that the Internet has a subversive effect on intellectual
life in authoritarian regimes, and may threaten to bring down the regime itself.
Opportunities for a deeper and more interactive approach to media arise
from the quickly evolving world of online, independent news media; a world that
in some important, if limited, respects brings us closer to Habermas's ideal of the
public sphere. Habermas (1989) has described the democratic ideal of a public
sphere, as a space that permits citizens to interact, study, and debate on the public
issues of the day without fear of immediate reprisal from the political and
economic powers (Beers, 2006: 116). The purely technological potential of the
Internet and other forms of social media to extend the public sphere or
marketplace of ideas is undeniable. Internet usage is likely to accelerate as
wireless computers become cheaper and portable. For instance, Google is already
pushing free wireless access for the entire cities in the United States (US), and
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers predict crank-powered
laptop computers will soon cost so little they could be handed out for free in
developing countries. Internet news media are able to be interactive, "viral" in
distribution, immediately global in reach, and relatively inexpensive to produce.
These traits make the Web seem a natural host for the public sphere that
Habermas defines. Many critics of corporate media therefore celebrate the
Internet/social media as a naturally fertile ground for independent media as the
basis, in fact, of a new media sphere that can compete with corporate media and
undermine its influence and authority. Such optimism must be tempered by
realisations of how corporations are already exploiting the Internet to their own
ends, as well as the challenges independent sites face in gathering resources,
establishing credibility, and finding audience.
According to Kellner (1999), the rise of the Internet expands the realm for
democratic participation and debate and creates new public spaces for political
intervention. He argues that first broadcast media like radio and television, and now
computers, have produced new public spheres and spaces for information, debate,
and participation that contain both the potential to invigorate democracy and to
increase the dissemination of critical and progressive ideas as well as new
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani
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possibilities for manipulation, social control, the promotion of conservative
positions, and intensification of differences between the haves and the have-nots.
But participation in these new public spheres, computer bulletin boards and
discussion groups, talk radio and television, and the emerging sphere of what
Kellner calls "cyberspace democracy" requires critical intellectuals to gain new
technical skills and to master new technologies (Kellner, 1995; 1997). Certainly, the
Internet is a contested terrain, used by all factions in the political spectrum to
promote their own agendas and interests. The political battles of the past may well
be fought in the streets, factories, parliaments, and other sites of past conflict, but
politics today is already mediated by the media, computer, and information
technologies and will increasingly be so in the future. Those interested in the politics
and culture of the future should therefore be clear on the important role of the new
public spheres and intervene accordingly. Now more than ever, public debate over
the use of new technologies is of utmost importance to the future of democracy.
Who will control the media and technologies of the future, and debates over the
public's access to media, media accountability and responsibility, media funding
and regulation? What kinds of culture are best for cultivating individual freedom,
democracy, and human happiness and well-being that will become increasingly
important in the future? The disinformation and misinformation that circulates on
the Internet undermines democratic information and discussion, pointing to sharp
contradictions within the current media system. Biased reporting, combined with
factors like manipulative publicity and mass advertising have been described as
"the colonisation of the public sphere by systems of authority" (Soules, 2001: 1).
However, Gunter (2009) has questioned the credibility of social media as news
sources. While news blogs for instance have set themselves up as alternative
news suppliers, the legitimacy of any such claim has been challenged by
journalists working for mainstream news organisations. Questions have been
raised about whether news blogs do truly represent "news". With major news
organisations, the public trust they command derives from reputations built up
over many years. Moreover, the major news organisations are expected to abide
by statutory or voluntary codes of practice that are designed to ensure the quality
of their journalism. There is a need to trace whether news blogs observe the
quality controls of major news suppliers and whether they command public trust.
At the same time, to what extent would the objectivity constraints placed on
journalists working for the mainstream news media create a (healthy or
unhealthy) tension with the need to be distinctive which is where blogs add to
the overall diversity of news provision (Gunter, 2009).
In the end, power is expressed through participation in the political
sphere, as citizens bring pressure on leaders to make policies that attend to the
interests of citizens. There are many forms of participation which show the
political power of citizens, among them political protest, which exists outside of
formal institutions, and voting, which occurs within the institutions of a
democratic political system. Social media has facilitated both extra-institutional
The Social Media Election in Malaysia
127
and intra-institutional expressions of political power. It can be both a means of
organising citizen action outside institutions (online political movements) and
facilitating institutionalised participation (e-voting and elections). The vast body
of characteristics of democracy can be described as institutions that protect the
citizen's ability to participate in the political process; elections, protection of
minority rights, rule of law, a constrained executive, and political equality. In that
sense the Internet is a tool in democratic processes (for instance, e-voting) as well
as rule-making and political organising pathways (political organising includes a
deliberative phase which precedes participation). The Internet has supported the
grassroots democracy movements in many countries. The Internet has opened up
many possibilities by allowing people to connect to various causes and mobilise
public opinion. Nonetheless, the so-called liberation it had come to represent
through blogs and online networking sites has brought into light the controversy
revolving around freedom of speech and expression. The growing reach of the
Internet has flourished as a platform for those whose voices had been suppressed
for whatever reasons, whether by authoritarian regimes or by their own
introverted nature. Since the early 2000s, net users have a chance to let the whole
Internet-savvy crowd be privy to their views and feelings with web logs or
"blogs" as popularly referred to.
Today, there are hundreds of social networking sites operating. Some of
them are popular in certain countries while others have global reach. Some of
these sites are targeted at very specific interest groups while others are general in
nature. One of the best examples of a special interest social network is LinkedIn,
a very popular social network for business executives. The popular general social
networks are sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, MySpace, Blogger and
many more. No one predicted the extent and impact of social networking at such
a phenomenal scale. According to Megat Ishak (2010: 51), at one point during
the year 2005–2006, MySpace, a social network that promotes independent music
and the socialite scene across the globe, actually ranked higher than Google in
terms of pages viewed. The winning angle for this network was the ability of
users to listen to new music and promote creativity through the creation of unique
profiles, plus sharing of favourite videos. MySpace claims that it has over 100
million music playlists with over 5.5 billion songs listened, 7 billion photos and
at least 600 world famous celebrities blogging (Megat Ishak, 2010: 51).
Friendster was launched in the year 2002. People who are using this site
tend to focus on sending messages, invites, and blogging to stay in touch.
Friendster used a degree of separation concept called "Circle of Friends", wherein
the pathways connecting two people are displayed, and promoted the idea that a
rich online community can exist only between people who truly have common
bonds. It ensured that there were plenty of ways to discover those bonds. The
current most popular social networking site in the world is Facebook. Its network
has grown into more than 300 million active users with an average of 50% of
them logging on to Facebook per-day. It is similar to Friendster and started with
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an emphasis on the college community (Megat Ishak, 2010: 51). Facebook just
grows in popularity and now the number of adults reached on Facebook dwarfs
that of college students. It has become the de facto social network for the English
speaking world where at least 8 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day.
Facebook is so addictive because it is a convenient way to track the status of
friends. However, even before the explosion of Facebook and its likes, there were
weblogs, or blogs for short; making them the first real social networks (Megat
Ishak, 2010: 51).
Megat Ishak (2010) argues that the power of blogs is in its usability. It
enables ordinary people to use and voice out opinions on practically anything to
an audience from practically anywhere. Although blogs started as people's
personal diaries, they have grown bigger today, touching on a variety of topics
such as fashion, automotive interests, technology, food, entertainment, personal
opinion, politics and many more. While it takes hours or days to build a
traditional website, creating a blog is simple and it only takes a minute to set up a
blog on sites such as Blogger.com, a blogging platform owned by Google. In
June 2008, blog search engine Technorati indexed over 112.8 million blogs and
over 250 million pieces of tagged social media, according to its page on
Wikipedia. The growth of blogs has been slow over the past two years but the
impact it has created is impressive. The latest social networking phenomenon is
Twitter, which is best described as a micro-blogging tool. Twitter allows users to
send or "tweet" about their latest updates within 160 characters. Twitter is now
accessible via a number of third party applications and mobile sites, making it
very popular among users (Megat Ishak, 2010: 51). Hence, the impact of social
media is huge. It gives important contributions to the popular participation and
engagement in politics all over the world.
THE PHENOMENA OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN MALAYSIA
In Malaysia, monopoly of the print media is arguably inevitable. For instance, all
main broadcasting stations, viz. RTM 1, RTM 2, TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9 are
under BN party ownership and government control whether directly or indirectly.
Radio and Television of Malaysia (RTM) is a public channel under the direct
control of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia. RTM has been used
by the ruling BN to spread the coalition's messages and propagandas. In October
2006, a business deal between the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA, a BN
component party) and media tycoon Tiong Hiew King solidified the
monopolisation of the Chinese press, with all top four Chinese dailies now
concentrated in the hands of a firm politico-business alliance. In 2007, Media
Prima Berhad, which enjoys close links with UMNO, acquired all the private
television stations including TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9. It also has a 43% equity
interest in The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad (NSTP), one of
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129
Malaysia's largest publishing groups that publish leading newspaper titles such as
the New Straits Times, Berita Harian and Harian Metro. The Group also owns
two radio networks, Fly FM and Hot FM (Media Prima, 2007; Azizuddin, 2010).
Both the print and broadcast media's news coverage and editorials generally
support the government line (Freedom House, 2007).
However, the policy to control the media has become difficult with the
emergence of the Internet in 1990s. Malaysia has at least 900,000 Internet
subscribers by 2000, with an estimated 4 million users (MASSA, 2000). When
Anwar Ibrahim, former Deputy Prime Minister, was sacked from the government
in 1998, the government had difficulties controlling the criticism from Internet
sources sent by pro Reformasi (reform) movement websites such as Laman
Reformasi (http://members.tripod.com/~mahazalimtwo), Anwar dot com
(http://www.anwar.com), freeMalaysia (http://www.freemalaysia.com), and
Reformasi Dot Com (http://www.reformasi.com). Opposition parties have also
established their own websites to disseminate information to the public about
their daily activities. Independent media or news portal on the Internet like the
Malaysiakini (http://www.malaysiakini.com) and Malaysia Today
(http://www.malaysia-today.net) portals function as alternative media for the
public. However, these alternative media also face pressures from the
government and threats under the Sedition Act (SA) for their reporting. For
instance in July 2005, the editor of Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Kamarudin, was
under police probe over alleged seditious reports carried by the website, had his
two computers confiscated. The action was taken following a police report
lodged by the Negeri Sembilan royal family claiming the website reported
corruption and misconduct of the royal family (Suara Rakyat Malaysia
[SUARAM], 2006: 76).
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)
is the regulator for the converging communications and multimedia industry,
including the Internet. At the time it was created its key role was the regulation of
the communications and multimedia industry based on the powers provided for in
the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act (1998) and the
Communications and Multimedia Act (1998). Pursuant to the Acts, the role of the
MCMC is to implement and promote the government's national policy objectives
for the communications and multimedia sector and is also charged with
overseeing the new regulatory framework for the converging industries of
telecommunications, broadcasting and on-line activities. Its social regulation
roles include the area of content development as well as content regulation. The
latter includes the prohibition of offensive content as well as public education on
content-related issues (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission,
2004). The Section 211 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 in
Malaysia provides: "No content applications service provider, or other person
using a content applications service, shall provide content which is indecent,
obscene, false, menacing, or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse,
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threaten or harass any person" (Communications and Multimedia Act, 1998).
Consensus is necessary both at the rule-generating stage and at the enforcement
stage (Biegel, 2001: 53). However most people believe that one of the reasons the
Internet worked so well and vigorous is that it has been free of government
regulation (Biegel, 2001: 355). While it is believed that rules and regulations will
reduce the passion for using the Internet, ironically, use of websites has
flourished since 1998. In 1996, when former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad
launched the ambitious Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project to attract the
world's leading Information Technology (IT) companies, the government came
up with the MSC Bill of Guarantees, which included a commitment that the
Malaysian government would never censor the Internet. This policy continues
until today. The opposition and civil society movements have obviously
benefited from this policy by creating a new public sphere of the Internet after
mainstream broadcasting and printed media became hostile to them (George,
2006: 60–70).
During Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's premiership, there were waves of
blogs which were critical of the government entering the public sphere on the
Internet such as Jeff Ooi Blog and Anwar Ibrahim Blog. The government was
unable to control the blogs but threatened to take action against them,
webmasters and authors for purportedly spreading "false news" and "defamatory
material" or for bringing up "sensitive issues" and racial hatred on the Internet.
For example, blogger Jeff Ooi was summoned to give a statement to the police on
an alleged blasphemous remark posted by a reader on his weblog "Screenshots"
(SUARAM, 2006: 76). Freedom of the press and open public sphere are almost
non-existent in Malaysia, where the government has full control over the media
and restricts the alternative or opposition media. Clearly, the policy to control the
media in Malaysia is a way to deter dissent and criticism of the government, and
thus can be considered as undemocratic. Although the issue of racial harmony is
a determining factor of the policy, the government manages to manipulate this
issue, by controlling the media, to strengthen its power (Azizuddin, 2004: 12–
22). Currently, nine of the Top 20 websites in Malaysia according to the web
information company Alexa are social networking sites. The top 6 sites are
Yahoo!, Facebook, Google.com.my, YouTube, Google.com, and Blogger.
Malaysians consume digital media heavily according to the Nielsen Global
Online Consumer Survey on entertainment media usage. The sampling is based
on 26,000 online users (including 500 Malaysians) from 52 countries. The survey
defined digital media as video (movie, TV show, music video, short video), audio
and video games. Malaysians ranked very high in this survey. They were No. 5 in
the list of digital media consuming nations and the third ranked nationality in
spending over 20 hours a week watching streamed or downloaded content from
the Internet (Megat Ishak, 2010: 52). An article published in The Star newspaper
by David Gibson, managing director of Inter.Asia Communications, says that
social media is very big in Malaysia and will grow bigger over time. According
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to Gibson, there were 17 million Internet users in Malaysia in 2010. These users
belong to a variety of social networks. They actively consume and adapt
information, and have a sense of global culture (Megat Ishak, 2010: 52).
In Malaysia, Facebook boasts over 9.5 million users. Although different
online measurement companies may disagree on the precise rankings of the
nation's top 10 most visited websites, the top spot, for a single site, is always
occupied by Facebook. Rankings by Alexa and Effective Measure both named
Facebook as the most visited website by Malaysians in October 2010 while
ComScore ranked Facebook after Google's group of sites. Although Facebook's
popularity may be common knowledge by now, what is truly surprising is the
rapid pace at which the social media network has grown in Malaysia. According
to social technology website GreyReviews.com whose author Lim Yung-Hui
sources his figures from data Facebook provides its advertisers, Facebook had
about 5.1 million Malaysian accounts in March 2010. By 1 January 2011, that
number had almost doubled to 9.5 million accounts (Tan, 2011). Vaishali
Rastogi, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Singapore partner and managing
director, said that "The growth of social networking in Asia, spearheaded by
Facebook, has been an amazing phenomenon to watch. This is especially true for
some segments, like the youth… Of the nearly 10 million users in Malaysia, 70
percent are between 18 and 34. For the young, Facebook is fast becoming a
means of communication. The community has become incredibly connected and
this impacts lives in multi-dimensional ways' (Tan, 2011: 1–2). Facebook's
popularity in Malaysia is reflected throughout Asia. At the start of 2011, there
were 111.9 million Facebook users in Asia, 20 million of who were added in the
last quarter of year 2010.1 David Lian, social media lead at public relations firm
Text 100 Asia Pacific, argues that "People just want to connect. Social
networking isn't a fad because it meets one of humanity's basic needs. In
Facebook's case, the growth in Asia will be driven by mobile and Facebook Zero,
a product launched last year that allows you to access Facebook from any phone,
even basic ones, for free" (Tan, 2011: 1).
In October 2010, the international research company, TNS, released the
findings from what it claims was the largest ever study of Internet usage. It
surveyed 50,000 people, in 46 countries. Out of all these countries, Malaysia
registered the highest usage of social networking sites. On average, those
surveyed spent nine hours a week on sites like Facebook and Friendster.
According to their findings, Malaysians had more Facebook friends than
anywhere else233 compared to just 29 in Japan. Overall, TNS's Chief
Development Officer, Matthew Froggatt, noted a greater engagement among
developing countries like Malaysia, than in mature economies: "In rapid growth
markets that have seen recent, sustained investment in infrastructure, users are
embracing these new channels in much more active ways. Online consumers in
these markets are leaving those in the developed world behind in terms of being
active online and engaging in new forms of communications" (Fama and Tam,
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2010: 82). However, it must be realised that Internet access in Malaysia is still
limited to less than 70% of the population. Radio, by contrast, reaches nine out of
ten people. In most rural areas, information is still received via the traditional
media, which is firmly pro-government. People in these areas are generally
poorer, more socially conservative and less educated. They are still largely cut off
from the Internet. These people are the natural constituency of UMNO and its
conservative Muslim allies. Apart from the heavily Malay north eastern state of
Kelantan, where PAS has governed for most of the last four decades, BN does
disproportionately well in poorer, rural areas. The big question is, whether
UMNO and its allies can take this support for granted in future elections (Fama
and Tam, 2010: 82).
Fama and Tam (2010) are of the view that Malaysia bumps along the
bottom of international rankings for press freedom, but the explosion of social
media sites such as Twitter and Facebook is revolutionising how journalists
work. Dissenting views, which for decades were screened out of the government-
linked mainstream media, are now everywhere, including the blogosphere and
text messages, making repression extremely difficult. Fama and Tam further
argue that one of the truisms of the Internet age, is that nothing stands still for
long. BN may have ignored social media almost completely in 2008, but it no
longer does so now. The Prime Minister, Najib Razak, is an active blogger, while
UMNO has several Facebook groups, as do many of its members of parliament.
The "1 Malaysia" campaign, which seeks to promote racial harmony, or justify
Malay dominance, depending on people's point of view, has a large online
presence (Fama and Tam, 2010: 81). Najib (2010: 99) argues, as the first
Malaysian Prime Minister to have a Facebook account, that:
One of the advantages of Facebook is that it allows me to
interact directly, and so I can receive immediate feedback
regarding comments, reviews and actions implemented by the
government. Therefore, it is a highly effective medium of
communication that helps me to gain a genuine picture of the
people's opinions and requests pertaining to certain issues.
Najib became proactive in engaging the people via Twitter and Facebook
on 11 January 2011 by saying that "I will be considering questions on Facebook
and Twitter between 4.30 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. Please use #tanyanajib hashtag in
tweeted qs (questions)" (The Malaysian Insider, 2011). According to the Prime
Minister's Department, Najib used the Youtube to answer as many questions as
possible expressed by the people (Ho, 2011). Najib has signalled quite clearly
that he will not allow the opposition a free run in the next election's battle of the
Internet. But not all government members, or supporters for that matter, are
"singing from the same song sheet" (Fama and Tam, 2010: 81). As in January
2010, the Information, Communication and Culture Minister, Rais Yatim, warned
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of the dangers of being immersed in the foreign Internet culture. Quoted by the
national news agency, Bernama, he said, "We must be strong in our beliefs and
culture because the identity and image of our country depends on us. They are
just selling Facebook, Twitter, as a product but we do not do such business. We
accept all this in a state of cultural shock" (Fama and Tam, 2010: 82). Although
his comments were greeted by ridicule on Twitter, Facebook and other social
media sites, he is far from being alone among Malaysians, in viewing the Internet
as a threat to traditional social and religious values. Whatever conservatives like
Rais may hope it would be, Malaysians have fallen in love with social media, and
there seems to be no sign of this love affair ending any time soon. It is now
clearly that Facebook is the country's most popular site, with a large lead over
second-placed Friendster. Twitter is credited with about half a million unique
users, with an estimated three times that number accessing tweets through other
social media sites. Even Wong Sai Wan, the executive editor of The Star,
Malaysia's best-selling English language newspaper, acknowledged how
important social media is now: "In 2008, it was blog sites and e-mails that were
effective. If the next general election is held...Facebook and Twitter will be more
effective, as these two media have proven to have massive viral capability"
(Fama and Tam, 2010: 81–82).
Today, Facebook fan pages highlighting political rallies and civil society
forums, as well as Twitter exchanges with lawmakers, have reshaped the
reporting landscape. Premesh Chandran, Malaysiakini Chief Executive Officer,
argues that "All our reporters have BlackBerrys (smart phone) and use that to
follow these tweets. The social media has changed the way journalists work in
fundamental ways" (Bose, 2011: 1). He said that the new immediacy hampers
government attempts to "spin" or control a story as journalists get real-time
reaction from the opposition and experts and use it to seek an immediate response
from officials. With the advent of Twitter, politicians from both sides of the aisle
freely disseminate their views, so much so that legislators have been known to
take debates out of the chamber and continue them on Twitter. Social media also
have a knack of eliciting more candid commentary than politicians would usually
choose to put in a regular news release. That phenomenon was on display in
August 2010 when Khairy Jamaluddin, influential leader of the ruling party's
youth wing, gave a quick response to a government decision not to drop a ban on
students joining political parties. In a much-discussed tweet, Khairy said that
"Cabinet decision not allowing university students to be involved in political
parties is gutless and indicates outdated thinking" (Bose, 2011: 1–2). Opposition
politician Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad tweets daily on his constituency work. He lists
all his public events on Facebook and even carries out interviews and dialogues
online. He said that:
Social media definitely gives the opposition and alternative
voices a space to express our views without censorship… The
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani
134
limitation is that we are restricted to 140 characters on Twitter,
so we can't really flesh out many of the arguments and positions,
but it at least allows people and the media to read and understand
our perspective (Bose, 2011: 1–2).
Malaysians have flocked to the Internet for news and views, a
phenomenon credited with the opposition's stunning performance in the 2008
polls when the government lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first
time since 1969. Reporters Without Borders' regional correspondent Patrice
Victor said that the Malaysian experience could be replicated in other countries
as they develop a potent combination of repressive governments and reasonable
Internet access (Bose, 2011: 2). The rapid growth of social networking in
Malaysia, which is the most popular online activity, will result in an increased
awareness for the need to build "walls" within existing networks. According to
the Yahoo!-Synovate Net Index 2011 study, the walls would be built to control
information exchanges and ensure conversations remain rich and engaging (one-
to-few) (New Straits Times, 2011). The 2011 second consecutive study on
"Internet Trends, Digital Development and Online Behaviour in Malaysia" was
conducted between January and March. The Yahoo! Net Index study is also the
first Internet media study of urban Internet users in selected countries across
South East Asia. The enormous appetite of Malaysians for social networking
could accelerate the emergence of "selective socialisation", such as limiting their
personal information, keeping strict privacy settings and being specific as to
those they choose to connect with. The study showcased Malaysia as leading in
social networking across Southeast Asia, accounting for 90%, a 29% increase
since 2010. However, email (87%) and instant messenger (58%) usage are also
on the increase, with a solid growth since 2010. Other key interests of Malaysians
are online searches (89%) and use of online portals (80%), which also rank
among the highest (New Straits Times, 2011). Yahoo! Malaysia Country
Ambassador, Jon-Tjin Kee said that the study also showed that online deal
aggregation and group buying holds significant potential for rapid growth. He
explains that "User education and the comfort of paying online will dictate the
rate of growth… Thus, this provides a fertile environment for e-commerce to
grow rapidly in Malaysia, going forward" (New Straits Times, 2011: 1). Social
networking is the most prominent virtual platform dominating a staggering 71%
of online activities across the nation, while instant messaging comes in second at
35%. However, the number of non-subscribers in all the age groups was also
high, encompassing more than 50% of the total surveyed (Marketing Interactive,
2011).
Freedom of speech on the Internet is one of the essential issues that
requires close attention. Although Malaysian governments realise the importance
of free cyberspace and they do not want to hamper the phenomena for market
reasons, they have attempted to regulate and dictate its proper use politically.
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135
Based on the Freedom House's report entitled Freedom of the Net 2011 and 2012,
Malaysia is in the status of "Partly Free" (see Table 1).
Table 1: Freedom on the Net 2011 and 2012: Malaysia
Notes: Each country is ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the best and 100 being the worst.
A combined score of 030 = Free, 3160 = Partly free, 61100 = Not free. Under each question, a
lower number of points are allotted for a more free situation, while a higher number of points is
allotted for a less free environment. Unless otherwise indicated, the sub-questions listed are meant
to provide guidance as to what issues should be addressed under each methodology question,
though not all will apply to every country.
Source: Freedom House (2012).
Malaysia maintains its free cyberspace policy through the
Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (Act 588). The lack of clear legal
provisions authorising the filtering of online content in Malaysia may not be
equated with total freedom of online speech. This is because the state may rely on
other laws such as the Sedition Act (SA), the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and the
Penal Code or adopt different methods of silencing opinions expressed online. In
July 2008, the MCMC blocked the access to many websites and blogs including
the controversial Malaysia Today website (Farrah, 2008: 6). However, it will not
stop the social media to be developed and progress as the channel for Malaysian
citizens to express themselves politically either for or against the government.
SOCIAL MEDIA DURING THE 13TH GENERAL ELECTION IN 2013
The campaign period for GE13 started on the nomination day of 20 April 2013,
when the electorate began to know the candidates. It was fought fiercely by
political parties in trying to win the votes of 13.3 million eligible voters. The
ruling BN promised to reduce the cost of living for the benefit of middle income
and lower income groups. In the spirit of "1Malaysia", Prime Minister Najib
created at least 30 "1Malaysia" products, among them:
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani
136
1. Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M), affordable convenient shops
opened over 80 branches nationwide.
2. Perbadanan Program Perumahan 1Malaysia (PR1MA). PR1MA
was set up to construct and maintain affordable housing for
middle-income households in key urban centres. It is the first
public housing provider which targets this segment with homes
ranging from RM100,000 to RM400,000. In Putrajaya, under the
programme, 560 affordable homes, priced between RM120,000
and RM150,000 in Presint 11, were allocated for those with a
household income of below RM6,000.
3. Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) scheme. It is a RM500
monetary assistance for households earning less than RM3,000.
4. Amanah Saham 1Malaysia (AS1M) unit trust.
Although many incentives are given by the BN government, its image
was marred by the issue of graft and abuse of power such as in the Port Klang
Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal, National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) cow-and-
condominium fiasco, and the Scorpene submarine saga. In fact, the unbearable
rise in the cost of living and price of goods still continues to this day. Instead of a
promise made to reduce the fiscal deficit, the BN government has been
overspending for the past 15 years through the budget deficit (Anas, 2013). These
issues were exploited by the PR through the social media to gain votes, later
contributing to the significant outcome of the election. The most important fact is
that there are at least 2.6 million first-time voters, mostly between their mid-
twenties and mid-thirties, expected to cast their ballots. According to the statistics
from the Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR), young voters consist of up to 40% or
5.6 million voters. The young voting population mostly intellectual urbanites
which form a majority of the 3.7 million new registered voters (Anas, 2013).
Voters between the ages of 21 and 45 years old were made up of more than 8
million voters. EC explains that there are over 85% of the country's 13.3 million
eligible voters who went to the polls on 5 May 2013. GE13 saw the BN winning
133 parliamentary seats and maintaining the federal power with 7 seats fewer
than the last election, totalling 140 seats. The PR garnered a total of 89 seats,
increasing 7 seats from its 2008 election tally of 82 seats. BN won 275 state
seats, while PR won a total of 229. PR lost Kedah to BN, but managed to secure
majority two-thirds of state seats in Kelantan, Pulau Pinang and Selangor. With
regard to popular votes, PR received more votes than the BN. PR managed to get
5,623,984 votes or 50.87% of the total votes, while BN got 5,237,699 votes or
47.38%, and others received a total of 192,892 or 1.74% of the votes
(Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya, 2013; Augustin, 2013). BN managed to retain power,
but one of the major factors contributing to the ability of PR to reduce the
majority of BN and win the popular votes was social media coverage during the
election.
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137
The Internet usage monitoring website, Internet World Stats estimated
that, up to June 2012, the total number of Internet users in Malaysia to be
17,723,000, representing 60.7% of the country's population. According to the
Asian Correspondent website, the level of Internet penetration in Malaysia has
increased by 300% since GE12 in 2008. Meanwhile, the total number of active
Facebook users in Malaysia is 13,354,900, which is the 20th highest in the world.
There are 1,128,000 Twitter users in Malaysia (Ali Imran, 2013). As proven in
GE12, the Internet provided the advantage for parties and the candidates to win
over the voters. Current trends indicate that almost all parties and candidates have
been building up websites, blogs, and social media accounts like Facebook,
Twitter or YouTube unlike in 2008, when the ruling BN almost totally
disregarded the online public sphere. Besides Najib, among the BN leaders who
embrace the social media in order to reach out to the electorate are the former
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein and
UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin. On the PR side, opposition leader
Anwar Ibrahim, PAS's spiritual head Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and his deputy
Haron Din, and DAP's Publicity Secretary Tony Pua have become the attractions.
Internet monitoring site Socialbakers recorded that Najib's Twitter hashtag
(@NajibRazak) has the most number of followers in Malaysia with 1,510,127.
Najib's Twitter followers are the 11th highest in the world under the category of
politicians. After Najib, in the same category, come Hishamuddin
(@HishammuddinH2O) with 477,893 followers, Anwar (@anwaribrahim) with
278,535 followers, Khairy (@Khairykj) with 264,734 followers, and Tony Pua
(@tonypua) with 59,090 followers (Ali Imran, 2013). Looking onto political
parties on Twitter, the PR fares better where PKR has 27,000 followers; DAP has
27,000 followers, and PAS has 1,200 followers. BN, meanwhile, has on the
whole only 24,000 followers (Gomez, 2013).
On Facebook's Fan page, Najib is in the second highest position for the
most "liked" politician with 1,633,812 "Likes", after Mahathir with 2,085,034
"Likes". Nik Abdul Aziz is in third place with 917,785 "Likes". Meanwhile,
Haron Din is in the 4th and Anwar in the 5th position with both recording
672,546 and 582,839 "Likes" respectively (Ali Imran, 2013). However on the
polling day of 5 May 2013, although there has been an increase of "Likes" in
Najib's official Facebook page to 1,720,255, the engagement level was very low
at 12%. Opposition leader Anwar's official Facebook page had an increase as
well at nearly half of Najib's at 826,586 "Likes", but had an extremely high
engagement rate of 75%. Engagement is the number of people talking about the
page, divided by the number of people who like the page (Asohan, 2013a). It is
clear that Anwar used extensively the social media to his advantages during the
campaigning period to engage the electorate compared to Najib.
Ahmed Kamal as the founder of Politweet, a non-partisan research
company specialising in the analysis of interactions of Malaysians using social
media, argued that "The social media usage has definitely increased. We have
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138
one to two million Twitter users in Malaysia and over 13 million Facebook users,
with over nine million of those above 21 years old…In 2008, people mainly
turned to blogs for political information. Today the conversation seems to have
moved to Facebook and Twitter" (Asohan, 2013b). Ahmed Kamal believed that
social media plays a major role in GE13, especially in urban areas as well as in
semi-urban and rural areas. He explains that "Urban areas have the most users,
and candidates in these areas will benefit the most from using social media…But
many people work in townships and have families staying in small towns and
kampungs (villages). They will bring home whatever political message they
acquired from the city. It's not easy to measure that sort of real-world
impact…Having said that, it's worth pointing out that social media enables us to
be more connected with like-minded people. It hardens the mind-set of people
who are leaning towards either BN or PR (the Opposition), making it harder to
convert people from the other side…When it comes to socializing with each
other, we tend to live in our own bubble online" (Asohan, 2013b).
The impact of social media was evident in the campaigning period. PAS's
Titiwangsa candidate Ahmad Zamri Asa'ad Khuzaimi admitted that he had been
relying heavily on social media as part of his campaign strategy as opposition
candidates like him did not have access to the mainstream media (Alyaa, 2013).
His opponent, BN Titiwangsa candidate, Johari Abdul Ghani, agreed that social
media plays an important role in the election since a lot of young voters do not
read the printed material. The youngsters get information on their mobile phones
or laptops, so it is handier for them to access information online about the
candidates (Alyaa, 2013). For BN to dominate the online public sphere, legions
of cybertroopers were formed and recruited to attack the opposition online.
Khairy Jamaluddin, as leader of BN's youth wing, said that BN has 6,000
volunteers working to get the BN messages out online. BN managed to have a
political talk and speak to maybe 1,000 or 2,000 people in public gathering or
ceramah, but if it was able to post it on Facebook, within an hour 20,000 people
would have seen it (Zappei, 2013). PR was more advanced in televising live
telecasts of their public gatherings. PKR televised live their public gathering of
Jelajah Merdeka Rakyat through various channels such as
"new.livestream.com/jmr" and "Selangorku.com". DAP televised live their
activities through "Ubah.tv". Malaysiakini also televised live during campaigning
period via "Kinitv.com/live".
Social media especially YouTube has been the medium to respond to
anger and dissatisfaction among people toward the authority or BN government.
In 2013, Malaysians were shown with several high profile gaffes tarnishing the
image of the BN. For instance in January 2013, a video clip emerged of a student
forum in which the head of the government-aligned Suara Wanita 1Malaysia
(SW1M), Sharifah Zohra Jabeen, interrupted and then admonished a student
campaigner. Sharifah Zohra's repeated demands to "Listen, listen, listen" was
quickly picked up and the video was shared and ridiculed by netizens and
The Social Media Election in Malaysia
139
bloggers. The original clip on YouTube very quickly amassed 1.3 million views
(O'Brien, 2013a). Another incident was when Prime Minister Najib Razak got
booed by a crowd in Pulau Pinang at a Chinese New Year concert featuring the
K-Pop star Psy an incident which quickly became the biggest talking point for
social media discussion (O'Brien, 2013a). These two incidents were used by the
opposition PR to claim that the Internet-savvy youths and Malaysians in general
had rejected BN in GE13. In fact, by searching the video clips via the names of
political leaders and political parties, irrespective of whether they are positive or
negative clips for those leaders or parties, we can definitely find out that Anwar
Ibrahim and Pakatan Rakyat have the highest number of video clips in YouTube
(see Figure 1 and 2).
Moreover, news portals still significantly influence people's views on
political parties and candidates. According to the Malaysian Digital Association's
(MDA) February 2012 report, websites of the mainstream media, such as
"thestar.com.my", "utusan.com.my" and "bharian.com.my", attracted 2,221,763,
1,171,578 and 769,772 unique browsers respectively. Alternative news websites
such as "malaysiakini.com" and "themalaysianinsider.com" attracted 1,858,649
and 1,117,124 unique browsers respectively in the same period, demonstrating
strongly their comparative strength (Gomez, 2013). Malaysiakini expected "over
15–20 million unique devices, about 80% of adult internet users, to access
Malaysiakini during the election period, up from 2.8 million on normal days"
(Asohan, 2013c). On the polling day, 5 May 2013, over 4.3 million users visited
Malaysiakini. Three million of them accessed Malaysiakini's live report page on
its website and another 1.3 million accessed it through Malaysiakini's mobile
version. A further 1.3 million users visited Malaysiakini's undi.info, which
provides information on seats and candidates. According to Google Analytics, at
the height of the vote count, Malaysiakini's readership hit 500,000 users per
minute. Since letting the website go free on 17 April 2013, Malaysiakini's daily
readership has doubled to 500,000 (Malaysiakini, 2013a).
With the extensive use of social media, the tendency is high for the abuse
of social media. Therefore, the MCMC announced that it was going to monitor
all users of social media during the election for possible abuse. The MCMC is
looking into suitable ways in which it can monitor and control abuse over social
media (Gomez, 2013). Despite monitoring, there are several cases during the
campaigning period which led to the authority taking action against users of
social media. For instance, the police detained a pro-PR blogger Yusuf Al
Siddique (aka Milo Suam) under the OSA. The police told the court on 3 May
2013 that they were investigating him over a blog post "Maklumat sulit:
Pendatang asing bakal cetus huru hara di Sabah" (Confidential information:
Foreigners to cause chaos in Sabah) posted on 23 April 2013. In the post, Milo
Suam included an image of a confidential police document warning that 1,400
foreigners were set to cause chaos in Kota Kinabalu and Tawau (Anand, 2013).
Besides, pro-UMNO blogger Papagomo and pro-PR blogger King Jason (both
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani
140
pseudo-names) were arrested by the police. Papagomo was detained due to
posting racial remarks on his blog, whilst King Jason was accusing BN of buying
votes (Malaysiakini, 2013b). Furthermore, the Centre for Independent Journalism
(CIJ) has expressed concern over the online radio jamming targeting Radio Free
Sarawak and Radio Free Malaysia and distributed denial of service (DDOS)
attacks on their websites (Koh, 2013).
Figure 1: Numbers of video clips of political leaders on YouTube
Figure 2: Numbers of video clips of political parties on YouTube
The Social Media Election in Malaysia
141
Another popular visual campaign tool is Instagram. In GE13, there have
been thousands of images shared under the various hashtags such as #ge13,
#pru13, #najib, and #anwar causing excitement to voters. In a search for GE13 on
the afternoon of 5 May 2013, 31,495 images were listed. There were many smart
art and slogans as well captured during the campaigning period. The "inked"
fingers were the most posted on polling day through the social media platform
(O'Brien, 2013b). The use of indelible ink was controversially introduced for the
first time in GE13 to prevent duplicate voting. Some postal voters who had cast
their ballots had complained that the ink was easily washed off. On polling day,
many voters posted before-and-after pictures of their fingers on Facebook and
Twitter to prove that the ink, at least in some cases, could be removed. According
to online intelligence solutions provider Meltwater, who monitored Twitter
during GE13, the words "ink", "indelible" and "indelible ink" were mentioned
1,438 times, 1,001 times and 918 times respectively (Asohan, 2013a).
It is clear that although there were great battles between BN and PR on
the social media in order to win the hearts and minds of the electorate, the results
showed that PR won mostly in urban and suburban constituencies where the
facilities and accesses to Internet through broadband and Wi-Fi are better
compared to those in the rural areas. This gives a clear indication that social
media as a source of information played a significant role in constructing the
perception of the voters in urban and suburban areas. BN had actually won the
polls on the back of voters from a largely conservative rural Malaysia particularly
in Sabah and Sarawak, as well as UMNO voters with an interest in the
continuation of affirmative action policies. In comparison with its performance in
the 2008 election, UMNO performed magnificently and managed to increase the
seats it won in GE13 from 79 to 88 parliamentary seats and from 239 to 244 state
seats. However, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), Malaysian Indian
Congress (MIC) and Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (GERAKAN) all BN
component parties, suffered tremendously due to Chinese and urban votes
swinging to the PR. According to Meredith Weiss, the Malay shift swung toward
the PR especially from a growing middle class and a disenchanted urban working
class. She explains that "Intra-ethnic inequality is startlingly high. There has been
a lot of disproportionate access (to economic privileges) by the few…The
underlining trend seems to be that interests are defined now by socioeconomic
class rather than ethnicity" (Lau, 2013). To prove this, in urban Selangor and
Pulau Pinang, PR increased its mandate. While BN regained Perak, PR increased
its majorities in Pulau Pinang and Selangor because the middle class and urban
electorate from all races moved away from BN. UMNO and BN also suffered
major blows in urban Johor with losses of largely urban and multiracial votes. PR
also made inroads into Sabah, significantly in urban areas. PR won in places like
Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam, Ipoh, Alor Setar, Kuantan, Kota Melaka, Seremban,
Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Terengganu which have large numbers of
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani
142
multiracial urbanites. Hence, GE13 results were determined not by the "Chinese
tsunami",2 but correctly it was due to the "Urban tsunami" from all races.
GE13 has proven yet again that the battle of social media was won by
PR, as it had done in GE12. Newly appointed Home Minister, Ahmad Zahid
Hamidi acknowledged that 85% of the new media in the country were managed
by the social media of the opposition (Bernama, 2013). Finally, in the Prime
Minister's Department gathering on 3 June 2013, Najib admitted that the failure
of the BN government to handle the public negative perception on social media
had cost them the election. He argued that "Perception can be formed in many
ways. Maybe not through face-to-face meetings, but through Facebook…If there
is any weakness in the government, it could be that we are not so good in dealing
with the war on perception" (The Malaysian Insider, 2013). He struggled to fight
off the criticisms against him and his party on social media and recorded three
major failures despite the polls win: failure to recapture the country's richest and
most industrialised state of Selangor, failure to recapture BN's customary two-
thirds parliamentary majority, and failure to win the popular vote (The Malaysian
Insider, 2013).
CONCLUSION
People have given a mandate yet again to the BN to rule Malaysia. Based on the
analysis, BN managed only to win with a smaller majority. It is clear that the
urban factors contributed a lot to the performance of PR as well as the BN.
UMNO is still strong but not so for other BN component parties like the MCA,
MIC and GERAKAN. PR through PKR, PAS and DAP had been able to
penetrate into the BN fortress states like Johor, Sabah and Sarawak and won
several seats there. It is interesting to see the emergence of the two coalition party
system in Malaysia, where people now have a choice to choose either BN or PR
to be the government. It is believed that this will bring about further
democratisation in Malaysia. GE13 was definitely a social media election.
Although the social media was not the determinant factor in the overall election
results, it obviously played a significant role in giving a space, channel and
avenue for people or the electorate to debate and engage with political leaders
and candidates in the election. This helps in strengthening the democratic process
in Malaysia for the better even though it contributed to the tremendous losses in
seats and weakened the ruling BN government. Social media now is so powerful
in Malaysia, comparable and parallel to the strength of the mainstream media and
the traditional media. No wonder, Prime Minister Najib Razak called GE13 the
social media election. There were a lot of debates between the ruled and ruling
elites, making many Malaysians fascinated with information technology and how
it changes our society for the better politically. Those who control information
will control the political power. So Malaysia will never be the same again. GE13
The Social Media Election in Malaysia
143
has made people think how valuable democracy is to their lives. One vote can
change the regime. The only thing that Malaysians can wish is that whatever
happens after the elections, hopefully Malaysians become more mature in
politics, fresh in exploring new ideas and thoughts, and willing to commit for the
common good.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
This study was funded by Exploratory Research Grant Scheme (ERGS), Ministry
of Higher Education, Malaysia entitled "Discovering Malaysian Concept of
Human Dignity in Public/Political Speech" (S/O Code: 12175).
NOTES
1. As of 1 January 2011, there were 32 million Indonesians on Facebook. Facebook
launched a regional office in Singapore last September 2010. In February 2011,
it ran advertisements for numerous positions to be based in Singapore including
a director of online sales and operations for Asia-Pacific. The social network
firm did not respond to press queries on their plans for the region. David Lian
argues that "While this is mostly guesswork, I think Facebook's plans for the
region will be quite localised. First, this is driven by location-based services like
Facebook Places, and secondly, there is a possibility of local e-commerce in the
form of Facebook Credits for micropayment" (Tan, 2011: 2). This statement
agreed by BCG's Vaishali who also sees opportunities for marketers to leverage
the success of the network. He says that "Facebook is a powerful tool which can
be used by marketers who understand how to leverage word-of-mouth marketing
or advocacy marketing. On a social or political level, Facebook can be used to
garner support for different causes" (Tan, 2011: 2).
2. The first impression from Najib was that BN survived a hard-fought polls battle
in face of a "Chinese tsunami" (Ahmad Fauzi, 2013). He argued shortly after
receiving a simple majority victory for BN that "I think they (the Chinese) were
taken in by some of the undertakings given by the opposition...and that's why
there was that swing...and a lot of sentiments there, some of them racial in
nature, that were being played up in this election, which is not very healthy for
this country…I expected it but I did not expect it to this extent. None of us
expected it to this extent. But despite the extent of the swing against us, BN did
not fall" (Jahabar, 2013).
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani
144
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... Political leaders have opted for social media in expanding their political campaigns by reaching and newspapers, are still relevant although their impact, compared to social media, has been reduced (Sani, 2014a;Jalli, 2016). Both the ruling party and the opposition use social media as their medium of communication although the opposition actively favours it as their primary platform as the ruling party controls the traditional media (Sani, 2014b). ...
... Political parties and leaders use social media as a tool to promote as well as condemn rival parties and leaders, including character assassination (Sani, 2014b;Samoilenko, et.al, 2017;Sakke, Dollah, Hassan, Sarbi & Jafar, 2018). Social media are used all year round, however, the usage becomes more tense during election campaigns. ...
... Social media are used all year round, however, the usage becomes more tense during election campaigns. Malaysia is no exception to using social media for political propaganda, especially during the 13th (GE13) and the 14th (GE14) general elections (Sani, 2014b). Although the Malaysian government employed propaganda through social media, the opposition used it more. ...
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Social media have become one of the most important political tools in the modern world. In 2018, we witnessed the downfall of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government. After 61 years of governance, it fell to its long-term nemesis, Pakatan Harapan (PH). Though PH has been praised for mastering the online arts first, both political coalitions have actively utilized social media to disseminate political propaganda. Increased support of PH has been evident despite stringent control over traditional broadcast and printing press. After 2008, BN lost its political hegemony in the Malaysian parliament, eventually lost the majority seats and failed to form a government a decade later. This research focuses on the Facebook rhetoric of Najib Razak, former leader of BN, after his loss in the 14th Malaysian general election (GE14). While concentrating on the Semenyih by-election, the researchers also looked at the different propaganda techniques Najib Razak used throughout this period, based on the propaganda technique blueprint by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA). Content analysis of Najib Razak’s Facebook updates from January 12, 2019, until March 1, 2019, revealed that the former prime minister had utilized five different dominant propaganda agendas against PH. It was also found that Najib Razak frequently used name-calling as a technique to create public discord against the new government.
... However, the results show that the ruling party became weaker compared to the 2008 election and the opposition parties were able to deny the ruling BN a two-thirds majority in Parliament in both the 2008 and 2013 elections (Noh, 2014). Sani (2014) states that the 2013 general election was historically important because the BN as ruling party won with a slightly decreased majority compared to the 12th general election in 2008 and unexpectedly lost the popular votes to Pakatan Rakyat for the first time since 1969. In fact, similar to what happened in the 12th general election, social media in the 13th general election is known as one of the major and main contributors to the result that was once more controlled by the Pakatan Rakyat. ...
... In fact, similar to what happened in the 12th general election, social media in the 13th general election is known as one of the major and main contributors to the result that was once more controlled by the Pakatan Rakyat. In other words, Malaysian youths as the main users of social media in the 13th general election (GE13) of 2013 had an important and significant role because they accounted for half of the voters to totalling 13.3 million (Sani, 2014). On the other hand, compared to GE12 and GE13, BN's social media strategy has improved in Malaysia's 14th general election and managed "far savvier campaigns featuring viral videos, influencers, and trending slogans like #Negarakru (a play on Negaraku) and #Hebatkan Negaraku (Make My Country Great)" but were unable to convince enough voters. ...
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Objective: To evaluate coping styles of brain pathology patients. The study also investigates the psychiatric disorders, socio-demographic profiles and clinical factors that influence the patients. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study conducted at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital in Malaysia, which is a tertiary referral centre for neurological diseases. In all, 100 patients were assessed using the Brief COPE questionnaire for coping styles and the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview to assess psychiatric disorder. Results: The coping strategies used by the patients in descending order of frequency were: religion, use of emotional support, acceptance, use of instrumental support, positive reframing, active coping, self-distraction, planning, humour, venting, self-blame, denial, behavioural disengagement and substance use. The coping styles were found to be associated with major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, socio-demographic profiles, and clinical factors. Venting, acceptance and self-blame coping styles were significant predictors and related to major depressive disorder. Conclusion: It is important to identify the types of coping styles practiced by the patients to improve their overall survival rate. Keywords: Anxiety disorder; Brain Tumour, Brain Pathology; Major Depressive Disorder; Neurological Disorder; Psychological.
... However, the results show that the ruling party became weaker compared to the 2008 election and the opposition parties were able to deny the ruling BN a two-thirds majority in Parliament in both the 2008 and 2013 elections (Noh, 2014). Sani (2014) states that the 2013 general election was historically important because the BN as ruling party won with a slightly decreased majority compared to the 12th general election in 2008 and unexpectedly lost the popular votes to Pakatan Rakyat for the first time since 1969. In fact, similar to what happened in the 12th general election, social media in the 13th general election is known as one of the major and main contributors to the result that was once more controlled by the Pakatan Rakyat. ...
... In fact, similar to what happened in the 12th general election, social media in the 13th general election is known as one of the major and main contributors to the result that was once more controlled by the Pakatan Rakyat. In other words, Malaysian youths as the main users of social media in the 13th general election (GE13) of 2013 had an important and significant role because they accounted for half of the voters to totalling 13.3 million (Sani, 2014). On the other hand, compared to GE12 and GE13, BN's social media strategy has improved in Malaysia's 14th general election and managed "far savvier campaigns featuring viral videos, influencers, and trending slogans like #Negarakru (a play on Negaraku) and #Hebatkan Negaraku (Make My Country Great)" but were unable to convince enough voters. ...
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Full-text available
This article evaluates the impact of the Internet on Malaysia’s political environment and how new media contribute to the development of democracy in the country. In Malaysia, while the opposition parties had a small share of mainstream media, they were able to sway the hearts of Malaysian voters through the use of the Internet and alternative media. The method of data collection employed in this research involves thorough in-depth interviews with Malaysian informants who are directly or indirectly related to the media. The results show that the effects of new media have enabled opposition parties to make a spectacular electoral gain. Initially, the paper assesses the observations made by the international institutions about the freedom of expression and also evaluates the influence of the Internet on the democracy in Malaysia which caused the opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan to emerge as winners which marks an unexpected comeback not only for Tun Mahathir Mohamad but also for democracy.
... However, scholars have long argued that this function is non-existent in the Malaysian media landscape. The control of the mainstreams media by the ruling party via ownerships and legislation has continuously been criticized by scholars, who opined that it freedom of opinion (Ahmad & Othman, 2014;Anuar, 2014;Sani & Azizuddin, 2014). Anuar (2003) argued that the biased reports not only distort the information to the citizens but also affected the process of nation-building due to the lack of genuine and constructive criticisms towards the government and its developmental policies and projects. ...
... In the context of unconventional political participation, previous researchers reported the function of the media as a platform for young people's political participation (Gil de Zúñiga et al., 2012). Social media developments such as Facebook (Gustafsson, 2012), news portals (Mohd Azizuddin, 2014), and Twitter (Bekafigo & McBride, 2013) have been claimed to boost young people's political tendencies, resulting in a definition of online political participation ...
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The integrity of political participation is a practice that should exist in a democratic environment like Malaysia. However, empirical studies on political participation integrity are less concerned by social sciences and humanities scholars. Therefore, this study focuses on examined the psychometric scale of the political participation integrity among young people. An adapted scale of the political participation integrity was tested on 388 students in Melaka state from four higher education institutions, namely Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Universiti Teknikal Malaysia, Melaka, Universiti Multimedia (MMU) Melaka and Kolej Universiti Islam Melaka (KUIM) by simple random sampling. The scale of the integrity of political participation Instrument was integrated from a combination of Social Media Usage and Online Political Participation Scale and Integrity Scale to test the value of young people's integrity through confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Results show that the multi-dimensional model of political participation integrity has achieved goodness-of-fit and achieved convergent validity based on the significant relationship of each variable. This scale also reached discriminant validity and predictive validity that supports the psychometric characteristics of the Malay version. This study directly contributes to forming the integrity of the political participation scale that previous researchers have overlooked.
... Moreover, Sani (2014) argued that roughly 60.7% of Malaysia are internet users in 2012 where there was a huge increase of 300% of internet penetration level in Malaysia since the election in 2008. In other views, Kemp (2012) reported that almost 90% of Malaysian Internet users have registered into social media accounts. ...
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A historic event was created in Malaysia when Pakatan Harapan, the then opposition party, won Malaysia's 14th general election. Doubted as "the father of all elections" as it evidenced the collapse of 60 years of Barisan Nasional ruling era. For Pakatan Harapan, it is beyond their wildest dream. This article aims to explain how WhatsApp plays a major factor in influencing voters to make their decision. It also aims to analyze how WhatsApp assisted users in accessing information, using the information, and disseminating political party and campaigning agenda in political marketing strategies. Using content analysis and a simple random survey involving 406 respondents, this study found that WhatsApp political and agenda-setting content plays a significant role compared to other social media and instant messaging services in Malaysia. Accessibility and handy usage become the factor in accessing information, use the information and then disseminate political campaigning content, thus assisted political marketing agenda. Future use of WhatsApp on political marketing agenda is eminent and worth for future studies.
Chapter
Much has been written about the emergence of new political dynamics in Malaysia since the watershed 2008 general election. This commentary has focused on the growing role of social movements, the significance of social media, and the form and values of what has been labelled the ‘new politics’. This chapter suggests that there is a gap in the understanding of contemporary youth activism as it contributes to political competition and discourse. Even though there are some studies acknowledging the role of young people in street protests, social media advocacy and cultural activism, few really focus on the youth as their prime subject matter and fewer still deal with youth activism outside formal politics. This chapter examines the actual and potential impact of youth activism on Malaysia’s long-standing consociational politics. The discussion suggests that contemporary political postures and forms of advocacy of young people have to be understood in relation to the long-term process of depoliticisation that has taken place since the 1970s. This depoliticisation was certainly the result of restrictive laws that limited the avenues open to youth activism, both within and beyond student campuses. Concerted calls for Reformasi from 1998 onwards, as well as demands for electoral reform orchestrated by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) since 2007 and the high degree of internet penetration have combined to rekindle the salience of youth activism. This has resulted in attempts by mainstream political parties to highlight youth issues and to encourage their participation in formal politics, with mixed results. The argument contends that recent forms and patterns of youth advocacy differ from those of the 1970s in terms of ideologies, networking and impact on politics in general.
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Sarawak is considered as fixed deposit to Barisan Nasional (BN). It very hard for the opposition especially Pakatan Harapan (PH) to defeat BN. Based on the previous general and state elections, PH fail to get strong support from Sarawak's voters. This happen because of BN had showed good proformamce in developed Sarawak. The development which had been plan and mobilized by BN had attracted the support from the Sarawak's people. On the other hand the opposition especially the PH had fail to show that their party could developed Sarawak. Owing to this PH especially DAP had mobilized their effort to develop Sarawak. In order to fulfill their target the Impian Sarawak is launched to help the rural people. Rural area is a stronghold of BN. However, their efforts have failed to achieve what they want. The election results show that the BN became stronger. Some of the seats won by the opposition had been captured by BN. The method of this study is based history method which would based on content analysis on the newspaper and books related to history and politic. In addition this research also used field work survey which would involved the ground survey before, during and after the election. The findings of this study show that Adenan Satem's leadership and provincialism had managed to obliterate national issues such as GST and 1MDB. Even Impian Sarawak and other opposition programs seem too small to gain support from Sarawak voter.
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Purpose -This paper examines the impact of social media (including social networking technologies) on migration strategies and integration, focusing on the use of new technologies for information seeking and dissemination, as well as personal communication. Methodology -Twenty-six Polish nationals resident in Ireland were interviewed, using semi-structured interviews, in 2008. Findings -Results indicated a significant use of new social media, especially social networking technologies based in Poland and largely used by Polish language speakers. The use of social networking technologies enabled "media rich" and resilient social groups to develop, founded on the latent monitoring of activities characteristic of face-to-face, geographically delimited communities. The resulting social groups incorporated friends and relations based in Poland, Ireland and throughout the world. These networks tended to minimize integration into Irish society, as most Polish nationals interacted only with other Polish people, whether resident in Ireland or elsewhere. Originality -This research demonstrates that new technologies are having a significant impact on patterns of migration. New social media are changing the character of international migration, with an emphasis on mobility rather than assimilation. Where foreign nationals previously tended to integrate into the societies where they resided, migrants are now more likely to be peripatetic mobile workers. Furthermore, while these migrants often no longer live in physical ghettos, they now live in "virtual" ghettos or enclaves, as they use new technologies to create separate lives within the wider society in which they work and live.
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Critical intellectuals were traditionally those who utilized their skills of speaking and writing to denounce injustices and abuses of power, and to fight for truth, justice, progress, and other positive values. In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre (1974: 285), "the duty of the intellectual is to denounce injustice wherever it occurs. " The modern critical intellectual's field of action was what Habermas (1989) called the public sphere of democratic debate, political dialogue, and the writing and discussion of newspapers, journals, pamphlets, and books. Of course, not all intellectuals were critical or by any means progressive. With the rise of modern societies, there was a division between physical and mental labor, and intellectuals became those who specialized in mental labor, producing and distributing ideas and culture, with some opposing and some legitimating the established forms of society. Thus, intellectuals were split into those critical and oppositional individuals who opposed injustice and oppression, as contrasted to those producers of ideology who legitimated the forms of class, race, and gender domination and inequality in modern societies. In the following reflections, I want to discuss some challenges from postmodern theory to the classical conceptions of the critical intellectual and some of the ways that new technologies and new
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The rapid evolution of online, independent journalism affords educators an opportunity to increase students' understanding of the nature and power of the news media. Drawing from Habermas's theories of the role of the public sphere in democratic discourse, the author, as founder of an online news publication, traces trends in concentrated corporate ownership of Canadian media, new forms of online journalism and their democratic potential and limitations, and ways in which educators can help students deconstruct and participate in traditional and newer forms of news media. L'évolution rapide du journalisme indépendant en ligne fournit aux enseignants une occasion de mieux faire comprendre aux élèves la nature et le pouvoir des médias d'information. S'inspirant des théories de Habermas sur le rôle de la sphère publique dans le discours démocratique, l'auteur, qui a créé un bulletin en ligne, retrace les tendances quant à la concentration des médias au Canada, les nouvelles formes de journalisme en ligne, leur potentiel et leurs limites pour la démocratie ainsi que les façons dont les éducateurs peuvent aider les élèves à développer un esprit critique et à utiliser les médias, traditionnels ou nouveaux. Mots clés : médias, démocratie, Habermas, Internet, blogosphère, conscience citoyenne.
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to show how blogging has grown as an online phenomenon. Design/methodology/approach – Examines the way that blogs have become a phenomenon that embrace private authors who go online to write personal diaries through to representatives from different types of commercial, political and voluntary organisations who utilise them for a range of information exchange, debating, promotional and support purposes. Findings – As blogging grows as an online phenomenon its impact in areas such as news, politics, and social networking is being taken ever more seriously. While the internet has been held up by governments as holding great economic and political promise, acting as a vehicle that can enhance public services, empower and engage citizens, and trigger new ways of doing business, the reality in terms of how it is actually applied can be poles apart from the ideal. Originality/value – The paper provides an overview of blogging and introduces the papers in this special issue.
Book
This book provides a framework for thinking about the law and cyberspace, examining the extent to which the Internet is currently under control and the extent to which it can or should be controlled. It focuses in part on the proliferation of MP3 file sharing, a practice made possible by the development of a file format that enables users to store large audio files with near-CD sound quality on a computer. By 1998, software available for free on the Web enabled users to copy existing digital files from CDs. Later technologies such as Napster and Gnutella allowed users to exchange MP3 files in cyberspace without having to post anything online. This ability of online users to download free music caused an uproar among music executives and many musicians, as well as a range of much-discussed legal action. Regulation strategies identified and discussed include legislation, policy changes, administrative agency activity, international cooperation, architectural changes, private ordering, and self-regulation. The book also applies major regulatory models to some of the most volatile Internet issues, including cyber-security, consumer fraud, free speech rights, intellectual property rights, and file-sharing programs.
Political Islam and the recent rise of Islamist conservatism in Malaysia. ISEAS Perspective. No. 58
  • Ahmad Fauzi
  • Abdul Hamid
Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid. 2013. Political Islam and the recent rise of Islamist conservatism in Malaysia. ISEAS Perspective. No. 58. 31 October.
The New Media's Profound Influence in GE13
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  • Mohd Noordin
Ali Imran Mohd Noordin. 2013. The New Media's Profound Influence in GE13. Bernama, 30 April. http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v7/ po/newspolitics.php?id=946345/ (accessed 3 June 2013).
PKR: Blogger's detention proves secret document. Malaysiakini
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Anand, R. 2013. PKR: Blogger's detention proves secret document. Malaysiakini, 3 May. http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/228899/ (accessed 4 May 2013).
Who to vote for: A dummies guide to the manifesto. FZ.com, 3 May
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