Malaysia opposition win shows power of cyberspaceI just received an email from one of Singapore's own newspapers. The journalist wished to interview me for an article she's working on. In view of what has just happened in Malaysia, she plans to write about the kind of political influence that Singapore's bloggers might possibly have in the next elections here.
By Bill Tarrant
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's weak opposition was up against a hostile mainstream media and restrictive campaign rules, but it can chalk up much of its stunning success in Saturday's election to the power of cyberspace.
Voters exasperated with the unvarnished support of the mainstream media for the ruling National Front furiously clicked on YouTube and posted comments with popular bloggers about tales of sex, lies and videotapes in the run-up to Saturday's election.
Jeff Ooi, a 52-year-old former advertising copywriter who made his name writing a political blog, "Screenshots" (http://www.jeffooi.com/) won a seat in northern Penang state for the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP).
Elizabeth Wong, a human rights activist and political consultant who runs a blog (http://elizabethwong.wordpress.com/), won a state assembly seat in the central state of Selangor.
YouTube, the phenomenally popular video Web site, did as much damage as any opposition figure could hope to inflict, after netizens uploaded embarrassing videos of their politicians in action on hot-button issues.
One YouTube video in January showed ruling party MP Badruddin bin Amiruldin causing a ruckus in parliament over whether Malaysia was an Islamic state. "Malaysia is an Islamic state", he declared. "You don't like it, you get out of Malaysia!"
Muslim Malays form the majority in multi-racial Malaysia, but ethnic Chinese and Indians account for a third of the population and they deserted the ruling National Front in droves, partly in outrage over the religious debate.
SEX, SLEAZE, CORRUPTION
Another YouTube video that got wide distribution shows a rambling and incoherent Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin, in a live interview with al-Jazeera, excitedly defending a police crackdown against peaceful protesters calling for changes to the electoral process in November.
Zainuddin was one of several "big guns" in the National Front that fell to the opposition's onslaught ..... (click here for the rest).
Well, it's a matter of degree. Singapore's best-known political bloggers are nowhere as loud, noisy and passionate as Malaysia's political bloggers. But at the same time, Singapore's PAP is nowhere as incompetent and ineffective as Malaysia's BN, in running the country. So in Singapore, there really aren't so many things for bloggers to be loud, noisy and passionate about.
At the same time, the PAP is definitely much more experienced than the BN in using subtle yet effective methods to suppress dissenting voices. NTU professor Cherian George has even coined a term to collectively describe such PAP strategies - he calls it "calibrated coercion".
Meanwhile, I have just read that I am "gutless and fearful of losing my well-endowed life" and therefore the PAP need not worry about me. A rather entertaining article here.