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‘Social media crucial in election campaign’

 | April 19, 2013

Social media is a determining factor in the coming general election, say GE13 candidates.

PETALING JAYA: Candidates from both sides of the political divide are wise to the new face of the general election – the social media.

This is the fastest and surest way to reach the urban young for whom the smartphone and the iPad are indispensable devices. And this also includes computetr savvy older urban voters.

“Social media is a good platform to reach out to the younger generation and to an extent, the older generation, too,” said Federal Territory PPP chief A Chandrakumanan who will be contesting the Kepong parliamentary seat.

He added that social media has enabled hard copy of materials to be shared online easily.

“Whatever we manually do outside, like distributing leaflets and such, the materials can be uploaded online.

“Now it is so easy to upload things online to inform people. For example, when at a function, I can instantly upload a picture from my mobile phone,” he said.

Chandrakumanan said it is now easier to disseminate information, and that is why it must be shared.

“Information must be shared so that people know how much the government has done for the country,” he said.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has said that the coming general election will be Malaysia’s first social media election.

“I can confidently predict that this will be Malaysia’s first social media election,” he said, during the Malaysian Social Media Week event on Feb 27.

Campaign strategy

Malaysians are turning more to the Internet for information, which has led to politicians setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts.

There are three million new voters for the coming election, and the three million voters consist of young voters who are connected to the Internet.

According to monitoring website socialbakers.com, there are currently about 13.6 million Facebook users in Malaysia out of a 28.3 million-strong population. Twenty-nine percent of Facebook users in Malaysia are aged between 25 and 34.

PAS Titiwangsa candidate Ahmad Zamri Asa’ad Khuzaimi admitted that he has been relying heavily on social media as part of his campaign strategy.

“Of course we rely heavily on social media. Furthermore, as the opposition does not have access to the mainstream media, we have to rely heavily on the alternative media.

“So besides the traditional mode of campaigning, social media definitely is a determining factor in the coming general election,” said Zamri, who is also Federal Territory PAS deputy commissioner.

His opponent, Umno Titiwangsa candidate, Johari Abdul Ghani, agreed that social media plays an important role in the coming election.

“Social media is definitely key in the election campaign,” said Johari, who is also Titiwangsa Umno division chairman.

“It is especially important since a lot of young voters do not read the printed material.

“Youngsters get information on their mobile phones or laptops, so it is handier for them to access information with regard to a certain candidate,” he said.

A mere tool

Johari said that social media is more relevant as information is shared more swiftly as opposed to print media.

“For print media, an incident which occurs today will only come out tomorrow whereas for online media, information is almost instantaneous,” he said.

He also stressed that it is important for voters to know about their respective candidates in an in-depth manner and this can be done through searching for information online.

“If you want a good government, you must choose good leaders. It is important for voters to know who they will choose. As such, voters should check the background of candidates first before voting for them.

“Voters should look at the track record of a particular candidate. One should not vote according to emotions or sentiments, because you will be facing the same leader for the next five years,” said Johari.

Meanwhile, incumbent Batu MP Tian Chua simply said that social media is not a campaign strategy, but a mere tool.

“Social media simply allows us to penetrate places we previously were not able to,” he said.

BN candidate for the Batu parliamentary seat, Gerakan’s Dr Dominic Lau, is also of the opinion that social media is integral in reaching the youths.

Critical channel

“We have to admit that social media is a critical channel to reach youths. The youths communicate with me by raising and putting up questions on my Facebook page.

“Also, I use Facebook to update people on my activities and illustrate how we have been on the ground [in Batu]. Facebook is also used to upload press statements that I need to share with others,” he said.

He also admitted that BN did not manage to win the Batu parliamentary seat in the 2008 general election due to hardly utilising the social media.

“I have to admit that other than the political tsunami during the last general election, we also lost the seat [Batu] due to social media.

“Our candidate [Lim Si Pin] was not thoroughly prepared on the social media front,” Lau said.

Lau nevertheless expressed confidence in winning back the Batu seat.

“We have already rectified whatever weaknesses that we had in the last general election. We are definitely much more ready this time around,” he said.

In the 2008 general election, social media made a big difference for the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, in that it was utilised to the fullest.

Najib also conceded that the Internet was among the main reasons why BN incurred a substantial loss during the last election.

In the last general election, BN lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority and five states, namely, Selangor, Kedah, Kelantan, Perak and Penang.


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