Online campaign goes into full steam in Sabah polls

The video clip ends with a group of children handing out red, white and blue balloons, representing the colours of the Warisan logo.

KOTA KINABALU: As campaigning for the Sabah elections proceed with candidates heading to remote areas as well as crowded coffee shops and markets to promote themselves, many of them are also turning to social media to spread their message.

Among the first social media-based initiatives was a four-minute video widely shared over WhatsApp that appeared to be a “soft sell” for the Warisan Plus coalition.

Though the video, entitled Bangkit Sabah (Arise Sabah), made no mention of the coalition, it features Warisan president Shafie Apdal calling on Sabahans to preserve their unity amid an onslaught of attacks.

The clip also features scenes of Sabahans of different ethnicities sharing meals together and churchgoers singing Selamat Hari Raya to their Muslim relatives and friends.

Also featured in the clip is Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman saying in Parliament that “In reality, this land is Tanah Melayu (Pada hakikat nya, tanah ini adalah Tanah Melayu).”

The clips ends with a group of children handing out red, white and blue balloons, representing the colours of the Warisan logo.

Many Sabahans have been enthusiastically sharing the video and graphic artist Les Lee said this was because the message in it has resonated with them.

“We have no issue about race and religion because most of us have different ethnic parentage. One person might have parents who are Bajau, Kadazan Dusun, Indian and Chinese and his cousin might have parents who are Murut and Filipino,” he said.

“But we are seeing politicians from the peninsula who are loudly making divisive racial statements. We wonder whether our Sabahan values are under threat from some of those across the South China Sea,” Lee added.

Warisan Plus has also released video clips under the title Cerita Orang Sabah (Sabahan stories) to highlight its various achievements, including what it has done for farmers, fishermen and groups such as religious organisations.

Political observers anticipate that campaigning via social media will intensify in the coming days as polling day draws closer.

They, however, wonder whether candidates or parties are “preaching to the converted” with such online efforts only being shared by members, relatives or friends instead of reaching out to the “fence-sitters” or undecided voters.

“The thing with social media is that what appears more is the party that you follow or that you most click on to view,” online consultant Ashley Issac said.

Isaac also noted that a strong presence on social media may not translate to votes.

While a person may give a “like” to a candidate’s or party’s Facebook page, this does not mean it can be counted as a vote.

As Sabah voters start to see more flags, banners and buntings during this campaign period for the Sabah polls, they should also expect an onslaught of messages, photos and video clips on their social media.

Will these efforts pay off? The answer will be known after the votes are counted on Sept 26.

Click here for the latest on the Sabah polls