Fast Growing Internet Risk for Politicians – PM Najib in Hot Soup

Partyforumseasia: Internet and social networks have attracted politicians all over the world as an instrument for personal propaganda and the feeling of closeness to their voters. For Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia 2.1 million “Facebook likes” seem to signal popularity. The difference between these likes and the 3.4 million party members may simply reflect the focus of UMNO on rural Malay voters and their lacking internet access, not necessarily his lack of support within the party .

Najib 1Social media politics is a double-edged sword
The avalanche-like speed of communication when a post goes viral can ruin the image of a politician within hours or days. In an era where silly remarks ruin careers (an arrogant Australian wealth manager just lost his cushy job in Singapore for calling commuters on public transport “poor people”), politicians in the limelight must be extremely cautious.
PM Najib may not be fully aware of the danger. Facing a sh*t storm over his remark that food prices are not all up, since kangkung (water spinach) is getting even cheaper, many Malaysians saw it as adding insult to injury. But Najib insists and continues with more alledgedly cheaper items like sotong (squids). The public is not amused, but laughs about countless jokes ridiculing the Prime Minister.
Reports by the Malaysian Insider may be satirical, but if PM Najib is seriously asking his ministers to take a media training course, more jokes can be expected to target him in the coming weeks and months.
PS: Former PM Mahathir has already admitted last June that he might have made a mistake in giving guarantees for Internet freedom…!!

Virtual Politics in Southeast Asia: Leaders Must Blog

Partyforumseasia: Obviously many voters like to feel close to their leaders, and subscribing to their blogs seems to provide this feeling. This, in turn, obliges the leaders to set up their own websites. Singapore’s Straits Times, 24 June, provides an overview, here is a selection for Southeast Asia, that is the rulers. The opposition figures may be interesting as well and a comparison of the number of followers…



Phil & Sing


Backlash for Malaysia’s Partisan Media?

Apa lagi Cina mahuPartyforumseasia: Taking up PM Najib’s unfortunate formula of a Chinese tsunami with the infamous headline “Apa lagi Cina mahu?” (What else do the Chinese want?), the UMNO owned Utusan Malaysia newspaper has exposed its own partisanship to a degree that undermines its credibility even more. The domination, if not control, of the media by government and ruling coalition, blamed among other shortcomings for the uneven political playing field, starts to create a backlash in the era of internet reporting and social media. With the credibility of the partisan media, their economic success is also threatened. An article in the (link:) 2 June Straits Times (Singapore) gives a number of interesting details. And nota bene at the same time the saying goes that the best coverage of domestic developments in Malaysia is supposed to be published in Singapore (and vice versa).
By the way, the first political riddle in the childhood of the author of these lines was: “What lies at your doorstep in the morning and lies? Answer: The newspaper…
See also the following link: Malaysia’s Dilemma
Malaysia papers 1
Malaysia papers 2

Trust (in governments) is good…but rare

Partyforumseasia:   According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer (link here), in which an American market research company measures the trust in governments, business, media, and NGOs in 25 countries, the majority does not trust the governments. For Southeast Asia, the index has data only for Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore:
Trust Barometer

The figures above are for the “informed public” segment of the survey and look comparatively positive for Singapore (77% in 2011 and 73% in 2012), Indonesia (falling from 62% to 40%), and Malaysia (49% when it was included in 2012). In contrast to Western countries, the percentage of people who don’t trust government leaders at all to tell the truth looks relatively low here. The regional results are: Indonesia 36%, Malaysia 24%, Singapore 15%. But the overall distrust rates may be much higher.

Looking at all 25 countries, the deficits in credibility are shown as the difference between the expectations and the perceived reality: For the question: government “listens to needs and feedback” of the citizens the gap is 50%, for “has transparent and open practices” also 50%, and for “communicates frequently and honestly” the gap is 49%.

Partyforumseasia’s Conclusion: The survey certainly has its own limitations, not least the sometimes  rather wild changes between the years surveyed since 2000. But if we extrapolate some of the disquieting results to the political parties running the respective governments, there should be enough lessons to be learned. One important development is the growing diversification of trust in the media and the number of sources of information:
Trust in different media