Although there maybe deeper under-lying factors resulting in Barisan Nasional worst-ever results in the March 8 polls, Malaysia’s premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said his ‘biggest mistake’ in the disastrous 2008 elections was to ignore cyber-campaigning resulting in five states and a third of parliamentary seats in opposition hands.
The opposition waged an enormously successful online campaign using blogs, news websites and SMS text messages whereas BN influenced voters primarily via Main Stream Media.
‘We certainly lost the Internet war, the cyber-war,’ Mr Abdullah said.
‘It was a serious misjudgement. We made the biggest mistake in thinking that it was not important,’ he said.
‘We thought that the newspapers, the print media, the television was supposed to be important, but the young people were looking at SMS and blogs.’
The comments are a stark realisation that the government needs to engage bloggers which it has previously vilified, calling them liars and threatening them with ISA laws.
Malaysia’s mainstream media are mostly part-owned by parties in the ruling coalition, and what was seen as biased coverage in the run-up to last month’s vote, alienated voters and boosted demand for alternative news sources.
The conclusion of the elections in Malaysia is that social media should not be taken lightly. Singapore is more sophisticated with social media, using blogs, SMS, social networks, forums, virtual worlds, private communities and more. There is an increasing need for incumbent organisations to engage these mediums.
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