Cambridge Analytica Malaysia


Partyforumseasia: The ongoing controversy around political data mining has catapulted the discreet services of Cambridge Analytica (CA) into the international limelight. CA has obviously played an important role in Donald Trump‘s victory over Hillary Clinton, and its utilization of Facebook data is now in the center of the storm. Whistleblower Christopher Wylie, one of the brilliant young data experts in CA, has made public the dubious methods applied by the company.

Having offices in New York, Washington, and London, in countries where election campaigns are known to be sophisticated and dirty, Brazil is another client country, and there is only one more: Malaysia! The looming election (GE14), expected to be called in May, hasCA 7 already triggered a heated exchange of suspicions and accusations, since CA had been hired by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in the 2013 election to win back the federal state of Kedah from the opposition. Obviously learning only now that the BN had hired CA, the opposition wants to know details about Prime Minister Najib‘s role in the deal. Najib, as usual, denies everything and directs all the blame on Mukhriz Mahathir, former chief minister of Kedah when he was still member of UMNO, and in charge of the 2013 campaign. Mukhriz, in turn, denies any involvement, even knowledge of Cambridge Analytica.

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Whatever will eventually come to the surface, a glimpse into the services of Cambridge Analytica must create respect, if not admiration, for the technical ingenuity of this company. It is indeed combining all sorts of campaign instruments and strategies with the new opportunities provided by social media and internet penetration, including the dirty tricks which have tarnished the lofty democratic ideals of the United States. What is the background of CA and its parent company SLC Group, a data giant with 25 years experience in helping governments and military organization in over 60 countries with “behavioral change programs” (SLC homepage)? Involved were controversial figures like Steve Bannon and Russian experts, and the funding was mainly provided by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, one of the prominent supporters of Donald Trump.

For anybody who has participated in election campaigns, the services of CA Political, the campaign branch of CA, must look more than attractive. They have been paid with many millions world wide and are certainly affordable for potential clients like UMNO. The branch office in Kuala Lumpur is not there by accident. And the revelations might impact the coming campaign and the chances of the opposition.

Here are some excerpts from the CA homepage (LINK, which might disappear any time from now if the scandal widens):

Experience an end-to-end campaign service

POLLING
With one of the best track records of accuracy in the industry, we will provide you with in-depth polling to advise informed decision making.

PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS
The global leader in predictive analytics, CA Political provides precise insights that will allow you to forecast voter behavior.

TV AND DIGITAL AD PLACEMENT
Through our detailed models, predictive analytics, and sophisticated ad-tech, you can find the most effective locations for ad placement and meaningfully impact your voters.

LIST BUILDING
Accumulate email addresses and an organic following in order to fundraise more efficiently and distribute campaign material.

EVENT PROMOTION, VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT, APP PROMOTION
Rally supporters, promote your campaign events, and increase attendance through our creative and precisely targeted messaging.

REAL-TIME REPORTING
With our up-to-date reports, you will stay informed on the progress of your campaign and assess your voters’ reactions to the campaign in real-time.

PERSUASION
More effectively engage and persuade voters using specially tailored language and visual ad combinations crafted with insights gleaned from behavioral understandings of your electorate.

GET OUT THE VOTE (GOTV)
Drive organized and methodical ballot initiatives, targeting the voters who could swing the election in your favor.

Some clients:

Political Hunting Season in Malaysia


Mukhriz

Former Chief Minister – since yesterday 3 February

Partyforumseasia: Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, son of former prime minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, has finally resigned from his post as chief minister of the federal state of Kedah after only 30 months. As the rumors go he was asked three times in a week to sign a prepared resignation letter. Claiming that he was forced out because of his (and his father’s) criticism of prime minister Najib Razak and the series of financial scandals he is alleged to be involved in, Mr. Mukhriz did not hesitate to counterattack:
“Sorry to say that as long as Najib is still there, Umno is at its weakest point right now. Scandal after scandal, I think we can’t take it all, it is too much for us. It is really traumatising to all of us. We can’t hold our heads high. Now I will have more opportunity to fight on and speak out for the people because this will not shut me up,” he is quoted as saying by Singapore’s Straits Times (Link).

Prime Minister  Najib’s control of their common party UMNO looks more than total at the moment, but with Swiss and Singaporean banks being involved in the 1MDB scandal the shells are landing ever closer. And never underestimate estranged and sidelined party members. The roles of hunted and hunters can change:
In the first German children’s book, first published in 1845, the hare steals the hunter’s rifle and starts to hunt the hunter…
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A New Broom Sweeps Clean – PM Najib Cleared of Corruption by New Attorney General


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PM Najib still smiling

Partyforumseasia: Under much pressure because of a personal donation of nearly 700 million USD from an undisclosed Middle Eastern source in his private account, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia has shown remarkable cold blood. Knowing that he dominates his party UMNO practically unchallenged by lack of possible successors, he sacked a critical deputy president and the Attorney General who was daring enough to look deeper into the donation case. The replacement, Apandi Ali, closed the case on 26 January and stated that there was no evidence of corruption on the side of the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, two oversight panels, the Operations Review Panel and a Special Panel, have asked the AG to explain how he came to this conclusion. The move seems to signal that the Prime Minister’s narrative is so unusual that Malaysia’s public and voters are not yet ready to close the case as readily as the new Attorney General.
In terms of his communication policy PM Najib is in line with political strategy textbooks, namely admit only what you cannot deny and admit only in thin slices. In the meantime, the source of the donation has been revealed as the Saudi royal family. According to a Reuters-based article on Channelnewsasia (Link), Najib has paid back to the donors a sum of 620 million USD. While there are no explanations about the rest of the money, the Saudi side is not confirming nor denying the transaction.”Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir, during a visit to Malaysia late October 2015, did not deny when asked whether his government donated money to Najib. “Saudi and Malaysia are close allies and partners we work closely together on regional issues as well as international issues that affect Islamic world,” he said. “We coordinate our political position with regards to events in the Middle East and other places. This is something we do.”

Meanwhile, also from the political strategy textbook, Najib attacks his harshest critic and pre-predecessor Mahathir Mohamad by obviously allowing an internal party initiative  for the sacking of the latter’s son Mukhriz Mahathir from his post as chief minister of the federal state of Kedah.

This strategy may work, but the fight is not over. The Latin saying “audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret” means “slander boldly, something always sticks”, but nota bene: The Saudi donation saga is not just slander but a web of facts and fiction where nobody can be sure that more and more will come to light. The UMNO leadership may be backing Najib as long as he controls the financial snowball system, but the dangers for the tainted reputation of the party are lingering for too long already.
First rumors are here that Najib is preparing for a face-saving exit with guarantees of immunity. See The Diplomat on 22 January: “Will Malaysia’s Najib Finally Quit? Speculation is mounting that the embattled premier may seek a face-saving exit.” (Link)

UMNO’s Party Elections- Another Rising Son?


Mukhriz 2Partyforumseasia: Fierce competition inside a political party is the best time for observers and researchers to get a better picture of what is going on inside. The preparations for the internal elections which should have taken place already in 2012 but were postponed because of the May 2013 general election reveal a few things about UMNO after the extremely narrow victory which keeps it in power.
One interesting detail is that six candidates compete for three vice-presidential posts whereas PM Najib Razak und his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin remain unchallenged.
Among the six vice-presidential hopefuls one is more interesting than most of the others because he happens to be the son of former party president and long serving prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. This son, Mukhriz Mahathir, newly appointed chief minister of the federal state of Kedah immediately after the May election, is on the way up and would be a possible successor of PM Najib if elected as vice-president.

His father, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, like many other elder statesmen, continues to comment on everything political in the country, but still wields more real influence than most of his peers. His direct support for his rising son and his vice-presidential ambitions may help a lot in this special area of political culture. (In most European countries this open support would be counterproductive).
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Source: Straits Times (Singapore) today, 26-9-2013.

But there is a nice irony involved which seems to go unnoticed by father Mahathir when he says:
“Eventually people get bored of these outdated leaders who refuse to accept the reality.”
A European proverb is saying that you should not throw stones if you sit in a glass house…

Another interesting detail is the contest for chairing the women’s wing. Incumbent Shahrizat, who was involved in a massive corruption scandal under the headline “Cowgate” seems to enjoy endorsement for another term by PM Najib. But her challenger, senator Mazlah Maznan has good chances to replace Shahrizat exactly because of Cowgate.
UMNO is the biggest Malaysian party with 3.4 million members and the results of next month’s convention promise to be interesting!