KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 — Content by Barisan Nasional (BN) cybertroopers and across social media platforms will determine the ruling coalition’s success in the next general elections, says Umno supreme council member Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.
The popular deputy minister said BN had learnt an important lesson from its worst electoral performance in Election 2008 due to its failure to conquer the cyber-world which was then dominated by parties that eventually formed Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
“We were not there (cyber world) in 2008... we handicap. We lost at that time, because of that we lost young voters.
“But now BN is prepared, we have a team of bloggers and new media known as “BN cybertroopers”, the difference now is the content of the media,” the Temerloh MP told The Malaysian Insider in an exclusive interview.
BN lost its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament and lost four states PR before Perak fell back into its fold in 2009. Part of the defeat was attributed to BN snubbing social media websites in 2008 when a growing number of voters were internet-savvy.
Saifuddin said that 90 per cent of the youth learn about the country’s political developments from the new media
Saifuddin, who often comes out with views that differ from other Umno leaders, explained that the BN and Umno’s top leadership are now seen to be active in social websites such as Twitter and Facebook.
“We look at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, he’s very active with the new media as general elections draw near, compared to previous BN leaders.
“It can be said that the majority of leaders now are active in using the new media,” said the Deputy Higher Education Minister.
He stressed that BN and PR’s new media unit are equally matched in strength, and they only differed in the contents of their blogs and websites.
“We are equally strong...but the contents will determine voters’ choice.
“If they (voters) feel our content is good, they choose us; but if PR is good, they choose PR,” he said, adding that BN is now starting to realise that the great influence of social media would determine polls result.
Saifuddin said that 90 per cent of the youth learn about the country’s political developments from the new media, in reference to a study by a Universiti Teknologi MARA Malaysia (UiTM) political science lecturer.
According to the study by Prof Dr Shaharuddin Badaruddin, 60 per cent obtain information from alternative media, 25 per cent from the mainstream media such as television, and only 15 per cent obtain political information through newspapers.
This proves that the contents of alternative media, which are more convincing and more “persuasive” in nature, will enable political parties to win votes and support, Saifuddin said.
With young voters and middle-class voters making up 30 per cent of the electoral roll, they are likely to determine the victory of political parties that contest in the general elections.
He said that with the changes and access to social media, the “rural” and “urban” terms are merely physical differences.
“Rural and urban are just physical differences, but there’s no ‘rural’ term for social media...the difference is only the speed and access to internet facilities only.”
Saifuddin said the demands made by middle-class voters are getting more and more complicated.
“Key issues such as basic infrastructure is no longer the main issue for them, because of that Fardhu Ain.
“The issues that they raised are fardhu Kifayah issues, every ruler will give basic facilities to the people, but how many are prepared to give media freedom, give attention to basic human rights and clean and fair elections.”
He said that various schemes announced by Najib during the tabling of the Budget 2013 such as the Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia and book vouchers are not adequate to gain the support of this group.
“They receive the government handouts, but they want more than that because they think such actions would be carried out by any party in power.
“Their demands are more towards basic human rights, freedom of speech and so on.”
Saifuddin saw Najib’s reforms in matters of freedom of speech, right to peaceful assembly and the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA) would potentially draw support from this group of voters.
“The transformation carried out by Najib does not normally come from Umno leaders.
“But he is more progressive and is a reformist.”
By Mohd Farhan Darwis