Malaysian elections: On the cyber campaign trail

By Julian Matthews

Malaysia had its first elections ever in which there was finally a medium beyond government control–the Internet. But did the Net play any part in helping people decide who to vote for?

When the results of Malaysia’s 10th general elections were coming in on the night of November 29, one stunning outcome that appeared on the Internet even before results were announced by the mainstream media was the defeat of opposition leader Lim Kit Siang in Penang.

It was ironic that the Internet was to be bearer of news sounding the death knell for the parliamentary career of the long-time Democratic Action Party stalwart. Lim is an ardent advocate of the medium and frequent poster to his party’s Web site and various newsgroups.
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Malaysian election campaigning gets tech boost

By Julian Matthews

KUALA LUMPUR–Computers and the Web have become the new tools on the Malaysian election trail.

One candidate on a Malaysian Chinese Association ticket was seen handing out about 3,000 VCDs of himself interspersed with “before” and “after” scenes of how he has improved his constituency since the last elections.

The 30-minute VCD was entitled The Dragon in Stulang, named after incumbent assemblyman Freddie Long Hoo Hin of Stulang, Johore. “Long ” means Dragon in Chinese.

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Doctored photo on Net stirs election controversy

By Julian Matthews

KUALA LUMPUR–Cut-and-paste artistry showed up as an issue in Malaysia’s election run-up when a 1995 photo was “updated” to reflect new political line-ups.

Malaysia’s biggest Chinese-language newspaper Sin Chew Jit Poh doctored a photo in its Nov 14 issue showing current National Front deputy chairman Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in a group picture of the coalition’s leaders in place of former deputy chairman Anwar Ibrahim.

The substitution was first spotted by subscribers to a Chinese discussion list called Kopitiam on the Net.

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Malaysian cyber election nixed

By Julian Matthews

KUALA LUMPUR–A Web-based lobby group which set up a mock poll on the Internet to parallel that of the general elections has abandoned the idea after nominations submitted did not conform to its standards.

“We reviewed the nominations for the Cabinet of the New Millennium submitted through the Net and found the results meaningless to be used in a poll,” said Pat Lu, co-founder of Pahlawan, the group that conceived the cyber-election.

“The nominations we received were very polarized, and some clearly represented an expression of anger and frustration with other contending parties. This, we are afraid, diminishes the intent of the Internet poll and we are unable to put up a credible poll, ” she said in a statement.

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Net’s influence limited in this election

By Julian Matthews

KUALA LUMPUR–The Net is a growing influence in Malaysia but may not affect voters’ decisions this time around, says veteran political observer and journalist MGG Pillai.

“I do not think cyber campaigning would count for much or change voting patterns. More than half the voters would have made up their minds already. The floating voters is large, but I fancy they would not have access to a computer, ” said Pillai who runs the popular discussion list Sang Kancil.

Pillai qualifies, however, that the Net has become a potent provider of alternative, and increasingly believable, source of news for many ever since Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking from government.

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‘Phantom’ voters show up on Internet electoral roll

By Julian Matthews

KUALA LUMPUR–An election watch group has received thousands of complaints from the public alleging irregularities regarding Malaysia’s electoral roll available on the Internet and on CD-ROMs.

Malaysian Citizens’ Election Watch (Pemantau) head coordinator Kamar Ainiah Kamaruzaman said the complainants alleged that the electoral roll even had names of dead people and peculiar names made up of digits.

With the electoral roll available online, and with email affording quick and cheap communication, it has become even easier for people to discover irregularities.

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