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M’sian Blogger-Politicians Make History March 10, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Trends.
Tags: , ,

Parliamentarians who blog are now a dime a dozen. But bloggers who become parliamentarians are a new breed, and Malaysia is possibly the first country to have the most number of bloggers enter Parliament after the stunning success of the opposition in Saturday’s elections.

The shift in the political use of digital media tools cannot be underestimated as a resurgent opposition chart what has been hailed as a new era in Malaysian politics. It is compelling to conclude that cyberspace was where the election was lost as Malaysians desert mainstream media and turn to alternative information platforms for political news and views.

Except for former copywriter Jeff Ooi who has a domain, the bloggers who triumphed over their ruling party opponents in the elections used little more than a free blog host like WordPress.com and Blogspot.com to raise alternative views and funds to counter incumbent sloganeering and a hostile mainstream media.

Blogs proved a potent tool for the Davids who slayed the Goliaths in the ruling National Front coalition to enter parliament. They include Oxford-educated Tony Pua for PJ Utara, human rights activist and political consultant Elizabeth Wong for Bukit Lanjung and NikNazmi Nik Ahmad for Seri Setia.

Interestingly in Rembau, school teacher blogger Badrul Hisham aka Chegubard lost to National Front candidate and son-in-law of PM Abdullah, Khairy Jamaluddin who managed to squeak through by countering late in the campaign with a blog of his own and a Website www.rembau.net.

Of course prominent opposition leaders like Democratic Action Party chief Lim Kit Siang and Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader Anwar Ibrahim already post multiple blogs. Parti Islam SeMalaysia even has editing suites to support candidate Websites that live stream press conferences and PAS Internet TV.

We cannot conclude that online campaigning affected outcomes, but the swing in votes was most pronounced in cities and towns. Kuala Lumpur had 10 out of 11 federal parliament seats falling to the opposition. Penang had 11 out of 13 parliamentary seats to opposition and 29 out of 40 state seats. These major urban areas did matter in the final tally that combines with rural areas, to deny the ruling National Front coalition a two-thirds majority.

Sex, lies and video sleaze peppered cyber soap operas in the run-up to the elections. Bloggers pushed parameters of legitimate opinion with the shrill subtext of their unruly discourse.

The elections are over but the drama is just beginning. The processes and structures of debate could prove far messier post-election. It remains to be seen how these blogger-parliamentarians will use the promise of civic media to distinguish themselves and fulfill their electoral mandate.

Related Read:
Reuters: Malaysia opposition win shows power of cyberspace
Straits Times: Battle Lost in Cyberspace


1. Malaysia’s Dr Mahathir Starts A Blog « Webs@Work - May 1, 2008

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