KUALA LUMPUR – Back in 2013, Barisan Nasional (BN) was undeniably a victim of the war of perception in the 13th general election.
Among the lies the ruling coalition had to contend with then revolved around the alleged 40,000 phantom voters “imported” from Bangladesh and the use of indelible ink.
Universiti Utara Malaysia’s international studies senior lecturer, Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani wrote in his thesis that although the social media was not the determinant factor in the result of any election, it obviously played a significant role in giving the space, channel and avenue for people or the electorate to debate and engage with political leaders and candidates.
He noted that the opposition had won mostly in urban and suburban constituencies where the facilities and access to the Internet through broadband and WiFi were better compared to those in the rural areas.
In GE13, Umno emerged as the biggest winner among the contesting parties, increasing the number of parliamentary seats from 79 to 88. But other peninsula-based BN component parties were not that lucky as MCA, MIC, Gerakan and MyPPP ended up with seven, four, one and zero seats respectively.
The opposition parties, on the other hand, managed to increase their share of urban seats, with PKR and DAP garnering 30 and 38 parliamentary seats respectively, and PAS, 21.
For GE14 expected in the next few months, the big question is how will the ruling coalition deal with all sorts of expected and unexpected ‘bombshells’ from the opposition.
Giving his take on this topic, political risk analyst Amir Fareed Rahim said although BN appeared to be lagging behind as far as social media was concerned, they had been adapting well and in fact, catching up in the cyber warfare.
“I’ve seen constant improvements by BN in addressing perception issues across all major social media platforms and other communication applications …The response time is quicker and facts are now supplemented to counter allegations and attacks by the opposition. There’s still room for improvement of course,” he told Bernama.
Another risk consultant, Asrul Sani Abdullah Sani said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was aware of the advantages of social media and had pushed for Umno and BN to embrace it.
“I don’t think that BN has an edge over the opposition with regard to social media but nevertheless it has managed to dilute the opposition’s narratives over the net,” he had said.
Amir Fareed said to secure substantial support from urban voters, Umno and BN must push through convincing narratives that appealed to this particular group.
“Careful segmentation of voters according to age groups, locations and income levels must be made. In a sense, it is micro-targeting,” he said.
Among the groups of people that should be eyed are the “persuadable voters” mentioned by Najib in his presidential policy address at the opening of the 2017 Umno General Assembly on Thursday.
Umno Youth deputy chief, Senator Khairul Azwan Harun said it was not difficult to see that Umno and BN had success stories to tell while the opposition lacked in this area.
“We’re the ones who have solutions planned out to tackle issues such as climate change, cybersecurity, extremism, job security and more. What does the opposition have?” he asked.