Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bloggers Test Their Popularity In Malaysia Election

The Internet is changing the face of Malaysian politics, becoming a virtual political party of its own as the country gears up for elections next month.

Three high-profile bloggers, all opponents of the ruling coalition which has effectively governed for five decades, are standing for the first time as candidates on March 8, hoping that their popularity on the Net will translate into votes.

"Everyone of us has a stake in the country's future, but talk is cheap. We now need to walk the walk," says Jeff Ooi, a well-known blogger contesting a seat in northern Penang state for the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP).

A 52-year-old former advertising copywriter, he has made his name writing a political blog, "Screenshots", one of dozens that have found an active readership outside the pro-government mainstream press.

Another popular blogger, also running on a DAP ticket, is 34-year-old Tony Pua, a fresh-faced Oxford graduate who started blogging three years ago after setting up a high-tech firm.

"I've had opportunities to migrate but I decided that Malaysia is my home," Pua said as he dreamt up campaign slogans at a cramped DAP office on the second floor of a shophouse, above a Chinese restaurant, on the outskirts of the capital.

"So the next question is what should I do to make it better?"


Pua, like Ooi, is running from an urban constituency where Internet penetration is highest and opposition sentiment runs stronger than in the countryside.

A third blogger, Badrul Hisham Shaharin, said he is struggling to spread his message because of the limited Internet access in the rural Malay majority seat where he is standing.

"I admit that it is difficult because my blog is not accessible here, but I am getting a lot of help from fellow bloggers," he said by phone from his electorate of Rembau, a sleepy farming district south of Kuala Lumpur.

Badrul, who is running on opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's party ticket, will take on Khairy Jamaluddin, the prime minister's son-in-law and an ambitious politician. Badrul's blog.

Considered a thorn in the government's side due to their often critical political and social commentaries, Malaysia's blogging community offer alternative views in a country where the government keeps a tight control on mainstream media.

The government said last year it might compel bloggers to register with the authorities to curb the spread of malicious content on the Internet.

Government backers doubt whether bloggers turned opposition politicians could make their presence felt.

"Beyond the major cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang, there's not much the bloggers can really hope to accomplish," says Mohamad Norza Zakaria, a leader in Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's UMNO party.

Only a fifth of Malaysians have access to the Internet, official data show. There are 10.9 million voters in a nation of 26 million people.

Blogger Ooi spoke of the difficult challenge ahead. "Compared to the BN, we are behind on the three M's - money, machinery and media access." (Reuters)

***** It was a matter of time before our bloggers joined in the fray and this is as good a time as any for a modest start. While we cannot expect miracles overnight, slowly and surely the average Joe will get used to the idea of bloggers taking on an important role in politics.

The three bloggers mentioned above are trailblazers in this respect and they should be praised for testing the waters. All the best to them.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

majulah negaraku

6:28 PM GMT+8  
Blogger kittykat46 said...

Jeff Ooi managed to collect Rm 64 K in voluntary contributions from the man-in-the-street within 10 days. Not bad at all, not bad at all.

By contrast, BN/ UMNO's mega-millions are mostly ill-gotten gains.

10:14 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed , not many people will have access to internet , but I do hope opposition could take serious attempt to address below issues :

Government has announced many so call “ economic corridors “ , but whether we will see any result is another “BIG “ question mark ???. Figures and facts which has been presented could be very impressive and encouraging BUT the result is yet to see.

The most important will still be the “implementation “ and the quality of people who will carry out the policies to ensure that there will be a “ hustle and corruption “ free …
The success of any economic policy will very much depend on “ hardware and software “ where we put in , personally , I have doubt on how we are going to achieve it.

Clinton said “ It’s still Economy , Stupid !!! “ when doing his presidential campaign , I do hope all opposition parties could HIT this (economic issues ) hard and use it seriously to gain votes . Please for any sake and reason , do not use personal attack which will have much “repercussion “ as today’s voters are more mature and educated.

High inflation and rising cost , economic concentration on certain group of people , wealth inequality , losing middle class , misallocation of fund and economic resources ,
While elephant projects….. all can be use to gain more votes.

Again , Obama is using “Change “ in his presidential campaign , Yes , we could replicate this to our context an contain …. We need change to ensure (or at least ) minimize the monopolistic power the current government have .
Remember , “ Absolute Power Corrupt Absolutely !!!! “ , don’t let the “corridors become back yard street !! “

10:32 PM GMT+8  

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