Analysis: Is this the end for the ruling coalition?
Photo: Prime Minister Najib Razak will have to reverse the electoral slide which saw the ruling coalition lose its two thirds majority in parliament in 2008. (AFP: Mohd Rasfan)
The polling date has been set as May 5th and the parties are ready. The big question in Malaysia these days: is this the end for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition or are they re-grouping for the modern era?New voters, of which there are many, could hold the key.
In 2008, BN was shocked to be seriously challenged by the Opposition and even more surprised when it lost its crucial two thirds majority in Parliament. The local media called it an "electoral tsunami".
This time around BN says it's prepared.
It got rid of Abdullah Badawi, the leader that led it in 2008, and replaced him with Najib Razak.
The Prime Minister's duty is to reverse the electoral slide.
The Opposition is led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim who's the darling of the international press. This poll is a test for him also. Can he transform growing popularity into a viable political force?
Since the last election, a grass roots democracy movement has gathered pace. The group is called Bersih (which means clean in Malay) and wearing yellow shirts it campaigns for free and fair elections. Already BN figures have accused Bersih of being a front for Anwar Ibrahim - a call denied by Bersih and Anwar's team.
In 2013 there is another player, an entity that no one group can control: the internet in its various forms of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. How the force, power and reach of the internet affects these polls will not only be relevant in Malaysia but for elections in other countries too.
In Malaysia, the internet is becoming as powerful as established media and more powerful overall for young people. Significantly, in Malaysia the established media interests have either close links or are tightly controlled by the Government and have traditionally supported the ruling coalition BN.
On Wednesday April 10, as the Malaysian Election Commission Chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof announced the poll date, there was no need to wait for the mainstream media to cover the event that was broadcast live only on Malaysian television.
Sitting in Canberra, I watch the press conference live on MalaysiaKiniTV which is an offshoot of the Malaysian web based information group MalaysiaKini. The press conference was in Malay, but at the same time I could watch the twitter feed #GE13 (13th General Election) to see local journalists and others were concerned that the announcement was taking so long and that the Chairman of the Election Commission had delayed getting to the point. Eventually it came through on Twitter - "yeah finally May 5!".
MalaysiaKiniTV is part of this newly successful media company. It is targeting young upwardly mobile well educated Malaysians, those it says have a "liberal view" of the world. It is covering this election and providing a new perspective for its followers on the internet.
On the web, Prime Minister Najib Razak and Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim are using television feeds, blogs and Twitter. On Twitter, Prime Minister Najib (@NajibRazak) has 1.4 million followers. Recently, he has been promoting BN's modern credentials including its intention to include more women in the line up saying "Women have a crucial part to play in Malaysia's future. Their role in national decision making will be strengthened."
Later, Prime Minister Najib tweeted "Exciting news - the Electoral Commission has announced that #GE13 will be on May 5th. Candidates nominated April 20th. Jom bertindak" (which means "let's take action").
On the internet, Twitter and in blogs, debate has raged about whether BN plagiarised the policies of the Opposition in its manifesto launched last weekend or vice versa, whether Bersih is independent and if Anwar or BN can be trusted.
The debate is continuing and the tip from MalaysiaKini is the election is extremely tight and to watch for Johor - the southern region which could show the first signs if there is another electoral tsunami on the way.
PET+BLOGSPOT is the ONLINE BLOG of the Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association or Petpositive. Our stories are CURRENT, ACCURATE and RELIABLE. We offer both local and foreign news on animals, disability and the elderly. PET+BLOGSPOT was first established in October 2007. Our hits since then are now 150,000 and ever increasing! PET+BLOGSPOT is updated daily. Kindly note that views expressed in PET+BLOGSPOT are not necessarily those of PETPOSITIVE. You may also visit our Webpage by browsing: www.petpositive.com.my You can also find us in Facebook under PETPOSITIVE EMPOWERMENT. Please sign up as a FOLLOWER of this Blog if you haven't done so already in order to show us your kind support for our work. Thank you!