Mar 11, 2008

Politics in Cyberspace

Malaysia's recent elections will provide Singapore's PAP government with much food for thought. Among other things, the PAP will think harder about the possible influence of the Internet on future elections in Singapore:
Malaysia opposition win shows power of cyberspace
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" ( 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 (, 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.


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).
I 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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Does it matter anymore?

Mercia said...

BN is nowhere as effective as the PAP, especially with regards to gerrymandering. I think the numbers speak for themselves - according to the vote share on Yawning Bread, BN saw its share of the popular drop by over 1100 basis points. That's an 18% drop from their previous tally of popular votes.

Contrastingly, the PAP loss about 11% of their share of the popular vote, though the votes nearly doubled. There's not much of a trend to go by, but an educated guess is that as more GRCs are contested, more popular votes will be ceded to the opposition. Funny how 82 seats still remain PAP. They most probably play a very mean game of musical chairs during their meetings. Aheheh.

Anonymous said...

We all know what the newspaper will write. Election is a big thing for the party. The state-controlled newspaper will not, in any way, encourage similiar kind of cyber politics in this country.

They will use their "rational" crap and nation building shit in their report to discredit cyber politics in Malaysia. The old man ever said he will not be judged by opinion polls.

PS: They took the bait from the space boys.

porcorosso said...

porco thinks Mr Wang should run for election to Parliament? Aljunied GRC perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Headlines of the Today newspaper.

1 PM Abdullah: We're listening

2 Reckless talk that could get you jailed

Is this calculated or what?

Anonymous said...

The Internet has obviously some influences on the election result in Malaysias' Last Election. However, I thinks it is the Malaysian Electorates that caused most of the upsets to the Barisan National.

I opine that Singaporeans are far more exposed to the Internet than the Malaysians. And during the Last Local Election, the Net was used by bloggers and politicians to some extent. However, the Net Influence was not significant or apparent, in the final outcome.

Apart from the differences in the make-ups of the Cabinets in both Singapore and Malaysia in calibres and races, the electorates of both countries differ as much. The Singaporeans are much less passionate about who rules them. Their enthusiasm is on money, not politics. Their interests in politics have long been overwhelmed by State Policies, Education System and Social Engineering.

However, having said the above, I would say the Cyberspace is one super useful medium for the Singapore Opposition Parties to tap into and make use of for their own benefits. It is an opportune, in fact, critcal time now. Seize the moment, riding on the Malaysian Election Result, and enhance your mettles.

Oppositions are only good when they can gel with the people, when they can feel with the people and be with the people. Using the Cyberspace alone is not able to accomplish much as the feelings lack the face to face effects.

Cyberspace can be used to augment awareness but it is no replacement for the traditional politiking activities that are best and most effective in walk the talks. The Net is a potent tool for political endeavours but by itself, The Net, at present, is not sufficiently vital.


Anonymous said...

i thought the "screwtape" blog was a very strange kind of satire... perhaps if it were more interesting it would have been effective.

what does it take, for an individual to contest in an election, i wonder.... there does seem to be some merit in people mulling about whether well-informed public bloggers might stand for elections;

we have issues that i feel, apart from Sylvia Lim, generally are not discussed by ministers in parliament at all...

in a hypothetical scenario, even if bloggers like yourself or Mr Brown don't manage to win seats, just being able to Speak at election rallies about heartland issues (eg. ministerial pay; ineptitude in the Mas Selamat hunt; problems with flat buyback schemes, etc) would be effective, i think, and force the media's attention to their coverage whether they like it or not.

Anonymous said...

I think the PAP will ban all unregistered political blogging during the next election. They did that the last round didn't they? It'd be such a shame because most of the intelligent commentary on local current affairs exist only in cyberspace.

Anonymous said...

It may not be such a good idea to say cyberspace does not apply to us; firstly, we dont even have the slightest clue why no one saw this coming ; secondly, there are strange elements at work here, how did the hit counters go up so high; thirdly, why didnt their systems crash, as I know it one account in TM net for instance can only process a baum rate of 3700 KHz, one this occasion the come even accomodate 100 times this figure.

Someone from outer space helped them

Anonymous said...

let's be reminded that the last election only garnered 66.6 % support from the electorates. that's not much of an endorsement considering the incumbent hyped reputation for being competent,corrupt free and ultra efficient. but how do you explain the 'weak support' then? perhaps part of the reason could be because the voters are better educated, politically more mature and aware? if so, surely the internet has contributed to this awareness?
a more open and connected society(beyond cyberspace) could also translate to more dissenting votes. the choice could center on a competent, corrupt managed and cunning party and choosing a progressively demanding and socially imposing environment.

both of these options are analogically entwined.

Anonymous said...

66.6% is very evil.

33.4% are courageous enough to make a stand.

Now, it's up to 16.6% to wake up and shake the hell out of the elitist PAP government to treat Singaporean with respect and dignity and not just as economic statistic. Unlikely since they have brought in enough FT to cover the possible swing.

Our opposition is hopeless unless they unite with guts and brain otherwise PAP is still the only capable party to govern. Pathetic situation in Singapore.


screwtape said...

Legally trained person such as yourself must be well aware that the devil is in the details

Anonymous said...

The time is riped. Prepared your ground works for the next GE. Those who dare will stand to gain. The pap will lose big. Even though there are frauds in the last Malaysian election, the oppositions still win big. This is a good indication of the drastic mood changes in the electorates in that part of the world.

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans vote by compulsion. Voting is compulsory. Malaysians vote by volunteerism. You want to vote, register and appear.

This main difference ensures that the PAP will win, hands down. There is no need to mobilise YOUR supporters, or get supporters, as long as you employ about 60% of the electorate.

Anonymous said...

Singapore elections
Too many walkovers - PAP is almost government by simple majority even on nomination day!
Why so many walkovers? Because
1. Big GRCs and high election deposits.
2. Not enough suitable opposition and minority candidates
3. People frightened by lawsuits and rice bowl broken.
4. Many good and talented locals have emigrated. Even PAP have difficulty recruiting despite sky high pay even for MPs.
5. Due to sky high pay for ministers and MPs, it also makes it more difficult to recruit because they need to find someone who already draws quite high pay to join. Cannot just get someone drawing $2-3 or 4K per month, right? Otherwise if get elected, there is a super jump in pay for these chaps, right?
6. Those who are rich and successful and talented do not want to get into politics. Why sacrifice comfort and privacy?
7. Those who really dare get clobbered. Look at Chee Soon Juan and JB Jeyaratnam. How many want to be like them?
8. Unlike Malaysia, SIngapore is very small so naturally less talent available and also more easily controlled. In fact in the Klang valley of Malaysia alone, the land and population is bigger than Singapore.
9. The so called talented PRs and foreigners cannot or will not join politics. They may make economic growth numbers look good but for how long and is it sustainable?

Because of the above, what happened in Malaysia is unlikely to happen in Singapore for many years to come.

Anonymous said...

wow, thanks Mr Wang.

I enjoyed reading that paper "Calibrated coercion and the maintenance of hegemony in Singapore', a very delicate dissection and interpretation of the ruling party's approach..

written very diplomatically, yet almost complimentary..haha

very intriguing indeed.

Onlooker said...

Well it is definitely harder for us singaporean but hey who dare to run after the gomez incident.Not to mention the lawsuits :)

Anonymous said...

If we keep on chipping away, it will make a difference in time to come on Singapore politics. The problem is whether the PAP will resort to tightening the electoral system, in which case nothing bloggers do will make any difference. Compared to Malaysia, we have so many hurdles for the opposition eg GRCs, high deposits, lure of upgrading of HDB flats and of course the fear of job losses, especially the civil servants and uniformed personnel, should they vote for the opposition.

Cannotsleep said...

At the end of the day, no matter how much one wants to vote for the opposition, one has to have an opposition to vote for.

And it says a lot when the ruling party wins the elections before voting even starts. The quantity of opposition numbers is severely lacking.

Look at what happened when a few newbies challenged LHL on his homeground... imagine what would happen if there were challengers in every single ward and GRC! What do you guys think?

Anonymous said...

To all the dreamers and/or dissidents:

(1) Tell us what the life and death problems facing Singapore are?
(2) How do we resolve them?
Any guarantee we won't end up the Kenyan style or the Taiwanese punching way if we went too liberal? I mean out of control.
(3) What are our national vulnerabilities? Do we have a critical land or mass of people (who won't run at the first shot of trouble)?
(4) How many nation-states are there on planet earth todate that have made good? Answer - NONE!
(5) Look at Tibet. Incitement and instigation leads to anarchy. Investments withdraw equals job loss equals more chaos equals foreign troops intervention (ever ready in fact). This is life.

Remember macro thinking supercedes micro thinking.

Is it bad? We have CNN, BBC, CCTV9, CNA, etc. on air. All foreign publications that allow people to rebut (not punching bags). There are no racial discriminatory legislations passed against anyone with yellow skin and slanting eyes. Everything works at the flick of a switch though we don't own a drop of oil.

We are the model and envy of the world! This is as far as paradise one could get to on earth.

Annual ang pows await all citizens.

Mr Wang Says So said...

LOL. Do you know what is a nation state?

Anonymous said...

Oops! I mean "city-state". The hand's faster than the mind. Tks brother!

family man said...

2 articles caught my eye in the papers on Friday- About the executives in Starbucks taking money from the tips belonging to waiters and Chua Mui Hoon piece about middleclass asking more from the budget. I get this feeling that Govt, thru the GIC and Temasek holdings has been caught red handed creaming off the higher returns - while our people has been conned thru CPF getting 3 percent returns. I feel the budget surplus and esp the GIC / Temasek investment returns rightfully belong to CPF holders to bolster their medisave, retirement and not the govt reserves. It is just like the starbuck executives being asked to payback to the employees. Not sure if you agree, Mr Wang.

Anonymous said...

Quote:To all the dreamers and/or dissidents:

Comment: Typical pap mental attitutdes. Are dreamers and dissiedents not Singaporeans ?

Quote:(1) Tell us what the life and death problems facing Singapore are?

Comment: Easy. The lack of check and balances in the Singapore pap government will lead to massive abuses and corruptions. If they are not taking place they eventually will. Then the US$500 billions of Singaporeans' wealth will be stolen by somebody.

Quote:(2) How do we resolve them?

Comment: See the one track mind of the pap lapdogs. You assumed that the problems the pap see are also the problems that all other Singaporeans see. You cannot be more wrong. The pap will like Singaporeans to think that their dictatorial way of government is the only way for Singapore. You people are so out of touch with reality on the ground.
To rectify the lack of checks and balances in the Singapore system, the pap government must immediately set up an independent commission to oversee the independence of the judiciary, administrative, police and military. The pap government must be more transperant and forthcoming with Singaporeans on critical issues like the management of Singaporeans' wealth.

Quote:Any guarantee we won't end up the Kenyan style or the Taiwanese punching way if we went too liberal? I mean out of control.

Comment: There your one track pap mentality again. You are trying to frighten Singaporeans into sticking with the pap dictatorial system of government. Why don't you mention that all the genuine first world are genuinely democratic.

Quote:(3) What are our national vulnerabilities? Do we have a critical land or mass of people (who won't run at the first shot of trouble)?

Comment: Right now Singaporeans are packing up and leaving. With the pap over emphasis on profits and monetary values, there are few Singaporeans who are patriotic. How do you expect Singaporean to behave when the pap leaderships monopolise all the powers and tightly controlled Singaporeans' wealth ?

Quote:(4) How many nation-states are there on planet earth todate
that have made good? Answer - NONE!

Comment: Name me one city-state which have failed.

Quote:(5) Look at Tibet. Incitement and instigation leads to anarchy. Investments withdraw equals job loss equals more chaos equals foreign troops intervention (ever ready in fact). This is life.

Comment: UYou betrayed your ignorance. Ask yourself why did the Tibetan revolt ? Are you sure that the oppressed Singaporeans will not do likewise ?

Quote:Remember macro thinking supercedes micro thinking.

Comment: I don't see that you can think properly. You just pluck incidents here and there and make a disastrous attempt to string them together to frighten Singaporeans. Singaporeans are not so stupid as you are.

Quote:Is it bad? We have CNN, BBC, CCTV9, CNA, etc. on air. All foreign publications that allow people to rebut (not punching bags). There are no racial discriminatory legislations passed against anyone with yellow skin and slanting eyes. Everything works at the flick of a switch though we don't own a drop of oil.

Comment: If that is all the pap government can offer then they are sadly mistaken that Singaporeans will be happy with them.

Quote:We are the model and envy of the world! This is as far as paradise one could get to on earth.

Comment: Your mentality is typical of those frogs living in a little well.

Quote:Annual ang pows await all citizens.

March 20, 2008 1:47 PM

Comment: So the pap used Singaporeans money to buy over Singaporeans to support them. What a pitiful attempt.

luxintenebris33 said...

The wind of change is blowing world-wide. Kelvin Rudd routed John Howard calling for change. He observed leaders who supported Bush in the war against Iraq falling like dominoes. Obama is riding a tide of popularity using the same slogan. Malaysian opposition was also calling for change. Changes are also inevitable in Singapore, it is only a matter of degree. The power of cyberspace offering alternative news to managed and bias news of mainstream media echoing government agendas has been domonstrated word-wide.

What is happening world-wide is a crisis of trust. Most politicians have become liars, cheaters and self serving. News headlines, especially those in cyberspace reveal this compelling truth, they have transformed themselves into self sanctifying saints, lifting themselves above prosecution by the same laws that govern the populace. Low trust is everywhere permeating our global society, our marketplace, our institutions, political parties, our relationships and personal lives. It has become pathological, breeding suspicion and cynicism pushing us into a costly downward spiral.

Singapoe is very much plugged into the international and economic globalization system driven by the USA. The declining popularity of the US paradigm is a cause for concern and is destablising nations world-wide. Singapore will see changes in the next election though I am incline to believe that it will not be as spectacular as that in Malaysia.

It is just a small island and is easier to manage. The governors or mayors running megacities world-wide with populations of 10 to 15 million people have much more challenges.

Anonymous said...

There is such a great lamentation in me that should be rightly oters'.

Singaporeans who have had at some times earlier earned themselves respects and even reverences have now mostly destroyed their reputations and became the scourges of the people. Why are they wise when younger and muddle headed as they age?

Were money(greed), power and fame(vain-ness) the causes of damages to their good names?


Anonymous said...

When Harvard-trained Ma Ying-jeou, was elected President of Taiwan, nation of 26 million, he commended Singapore on its clean government and pledged to keep his new government clean like SINGAPORE. Wow! The world surely can see.

Anonymous said...

If u want to have good laughs, go to

All opposition speakers in Malaysia too like to use Singapore as a model. Many more in YouTube whether from Anwar or whoever.


Anonymous said...

When Taiwanese parliamentarians fought in parliament, the pap pointed to these rotten Taiwanese politicians as the undesirable products of true democracy.
When the newly elected Taiwanese President talked of following Singapore in attacking corruption, he is held up as a wise man.
So are Taiwanese politicians crooks or saints ? Either way the pap wants to win by adapting the situation to suit their agendas.

Anonymous said...

damn - Mr Wang, you are spot on again. Mr Wong Kan Seng staged the 'great escape' while this chap is jailed. Can't wait to see how the inquiry will pan out.

Anonymous said...

" So in Singapore, there really aren't so many things for bloggers to be loud, noisy and passionate about."

Oh my, mr Wang. In this one sentence, you've done a great disservice to the other bloggers who have spoken up passionately.

Mr Wang Says So said...

In terms of volume, activity, passion etc, singapore bloggers pale greatly in comparison to the malaysians. Elia diodati, cherian george and (IIRC) yawning bread have all blogged about this before. Actually, so have I.