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BRIEF INTRODUCTION ON MALAYSIA’S POLITICAL HISTORY
Since Independence Day 1957, Malaysia has been administrated continuously by the predominant political party, namely the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and its coalition allies. In GE12 held in March 2008, the ruling party and its coalition union won a simple majority of the seats in the national parliament but for the first time in history were unsuccessful in gaining two-thirds majority. A loose alliance of opposition parties, known as Pakatan Rakyat or People’s Alliance, headed by Anwar Ibrahim, won 82 of 222 seats in parliament and gained power of the state-level assemblies in five out of the 13 states in Malaysia.
However, in February 2009, the opposition Alliance lost control of their power in one of their ruling states due to the shortcomings amongst their assembly members. Two members from Barisan Nasional and a few members of the opposition party became independent, which brought the opposition party’s strength down to 76 members and the Barisan Nasional to 138 members. At this time, the then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi stepped down in April 2009 in a carefully timed transfer of power to his successor Mohd. Najib bin Abdul Razak, who was then his deputy.
Ever since, Prime Minister Najib’s administration has profoundly coined the 1 Malaysia term policy which highlights national unity amongst Malaysia’s multi-racial population. Besides that, Prime Minister Najib has put much effort to improve the government services delivery system under the ‘Government Transformation Program’ and also initiated the ‘Economic Transformation Program’ to provide a framework to emphasize private investment and de-emphasize public investment plus introducing (NEM) or the New Economic Model to reform the 1970s (and sill current) economic policy known as the New Economic Policy.
THE THREE TYPES OF POLITICAL CAMPAIGN FAILURES
The U.S. Department of Defense defines psychological warfare as: “The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives.”
For every national election, every political party and their candidates would usually work hard in campaigns in order to win votes. Whether the strategies and tactics used is great enough to win the hearts and minds of the voters is another separate thing as anybody could struggle for a campaign, but whether the message reaches the audience in an effective way is questionable and can only be seen from the election result especially if there is no proper campaign management strategies in order to predict voters. Since after GE13, the ruling party has seen a very strong opposition party competing against them. Nevertheless, Barisan Nasional still has good supporters, but however, the increasing strength of the opposition supporters hangs the ruling party at a worry. Again, the destiny of Malaysia’s general election 14 is still vague and unpredictable.
Typically, the main key factor in any campaign for election is the difference between success and failure which is caused by the campaign’s internal state of affairs. According to the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), there are three types of political campaigns which are less likely to ever succeed due to their own domestic malfunction.
Not having an influential message to mind-set the voters is the first type. This type of campaign does not have a direct target of voters it wants to win over and has a lack of direction in terms of planning. This will contribute to the situation becoming worse and winning the election will be further reached.
The second type of campaign has messages that are straight to the point, persuasive and concise. However, it is uncertain of which voters it can convince and is missing a reasonable plan of strategies from the time the campaign starts until the day of Election in capturing the heart and minds of the voters. This is another type of campaign which wastes time and funds plus manpower as it roams without direction towards the Election Day. The group that works in this type of campaign is usually distracted from their main mission because of the day’s events, typically by the things the opponent’s campaign does, or by what the media writes and broadcasts, because they spend more time reacting to external factors rather than advertising their own agenda.
Now looking at the situation in Malaysia, for the ruling party to penetrate and win the hearts and minds of the people again will be a little more difficult than before. Different strategies and plans must be thought of.
The third kind of campaign is one that provides a clear message, can identify their voters and has a developed plan until the Election Day but is unorganized in sticking through on the plan and lacking the determination for nonstop continuous effort which is crucial to get elected. The incompetent manpower in the campaign only has excuses to why it cannot do what it knows, does not do what is needed to be done and in the end only makes excuses for its failure. New approaches and tactics must be thought of cleverly, done in a subtle way but with a strong impact and it must be done fast.
The winning political campaign is most often the one that takes the time to target voters which develops a persuasive message and follows through on a reasonable plan to interact those voters directly. This is where the management for political campaigns plays a big role in winning. We must have more political leaders coming to meet the public more often in a sincere and humble way. The style it is done is important to consider. Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed or better known as Tok Pah might be a good example for other leaders to follow. As little as people might believe, Tok Pah’s way of approaching the public, also having less controversies and the way he captivates the hearts of the few people does create impact genuinely. As advised by Tun Mahathir before, it is about time that political parties chooses potential political candidates with good reputation, trustworthy and no possible negative background. If it must be that the party throws out many of its unreliable corrupted people, then so be it for the sake of the party’s survival.
THE ROLE OF CYBER TROOPERS FOR ELECTION
The role of blogs or web logs has caught the concern of several scholars who either support the positive role of blogs or query its power on the political condition of the country. The queries asked have concluded wide-ranging responses but its role throughout elections and its influence on the democracy of developing nations have yet to be fully researched.
The internet is believed to be encouraging mass democracy for a number of reasons, the main reason being as a technology it would permit public access to news and information, or act as an equilibrium function.
Access to information on politics and political parties profit the community, as it allows them to gain information to make fitting choices prior to voting. Access to information also means access to sources in the Internet that may be put in by normal people through their blogs who have views on present political issues.
Bloggers can raise issues which they consider important especially on issues that are filtered or blocked by the mainstream media due to being controversial or even raise issues that the government deemed as sensitive for open discussions in the community. The function of the mainstream media in Malaysia assumed to be the voice of the government particularly throughout elections had spurred the other voices which had been side-lined towards alternative medium such as blogs.
When cyber-troopers present their facts and figures on certain issues which condemn the opponent party, note that the opponent cyber-troopers will always ask for the credible source to support the statement. Unfortunately when the respective cyber-troopers fail to provide that credible source, the opponent will definitely then discredit the allegations. And because the public is observing this at the same time, the integrity of the party which the specific cyber-trooper is representing will have its image tarnished and therefore the public will lose the trust on the cyber-troopers and the political party it is representing. Again, regrettably, even though when the specific cyber-troopers do provide that necessary important evidence, the opponent will still find another way to refute and distort the source.
The tactics to counter these problems is that cyber-troopers must be intelligent enough to predict what the opponent cyber-troopers will question or reply to the allegations before the specific cyber-troopers posts or releases any information. Once the specific cyber-troopers do realize the probable questions or replies, it is important not to directly give the information in full detail in hope that opponent cyber-troopers will have no reason to later question or discredit the information posted no matter how authentic the information would be. If full details were to be given all at once, it will then be difficult to reply to the questions and allegations because all the cannonballs already were let go. This will result in the opponent cyber-troopers to have the upper hand in this media warfare being in the neutral point of view because the specific cyber-troopers had tried to attack back a little weaker to reply to the doubts even if it is real when all resources were fully given away regardless it being the entire truth.
If it is one thing that some cyber-troopers should learn when posting their blogs, is to never post a personal attack or comment in a rude, sarcastic and vulgar way when attacking the opponents back. Also never post nudity or sexually provoking posts, pictures and stories. Also, never ever reply in a bad manner as the public watching will lose respect thus never trusting that rude immoral blogger. When such good ethical rules are applied in blogging to win elections, bloggers will win in the psychological aspect. Having a high morale in thoughts and writings are a very important aspect in persuading the public’s opinion.
The problem with some cyber-troopers is the fact that they like to first strike hardest in the cyber battlefield as the opening of an issue. This is not the right method to help win elections as the role of cyber-troopers is not to give the best punches in the cyber warfare but to win elections through carefully planned strategies in posting information. The art of debating in cyber warfare is not always entirely about giving facts alone, but more or less, how the information is strategically planned in disseminating it to the public.
POLITICAL CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT, TACTICS AND STRATEGIES
Political campaigns are much more than just a schedule of activities done during near time of election. Excellent campaign strategies are always planned far ahead, months and even years before election so that the party-building and good governance work required to be elected or to be re-elected are put in place with that clear, strategic goal in mind. The written description of that goal and the tactics and methodology of getting there is the heart of any campaign preparation.
Analysis of the type of problems within the country and methods of solving may differ according to the political party. These are the options put for voters to comprehend. But if those view and ideas are not presented or communicated efficiently to the right voters, including the usage of suitable language which is delivered through a medium in which they can be heard and acted upon, those parties’ ideas will not be represented in parliament. A good campaign strategy is able to indoctrinate voters with their mission, visions and objectives in order to make them appear as the better candidate/party to vote for. Many modus operandi have the same approaches regardless of party, electoral system or even country. But it is in the methodology or planning and successive implementation that Malaysia’s candidates will provide evidence to voters that electing them is the paramount selection to make sure the country continues to prosper.
The basics of any election campaign are deceptively simple. It is necessary for all campaigns to regularly converse a winning message to voters. This is the ‘golden rule’ for politics. The message has to be frequently voiced over and over again with passion without the voters realizing that they are being indoctrinated into believing the message. Even though so, the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. As quoted by Adolf Hitler before, ‘Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.’
On a negative connote, if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. If a lie is often enough said, people will believe in it. If a lie is repeated long enough, it becomes truth. If a lie is repeated many times, people are bound to start believing it. So what if the message delivered is found to be the truth? Again, based on the same principle, if it is said long enough and often enough, people will start believing it to be true until actions prove otherwise which will then destroy all credibility and reputation made by the messenger and one who promises. Once credibility and trustworthiness collapse, it will be at the point of no return unless the society is still foolish enough to continue buying the lies.
Again, it all comes back to the management and planning of political campaigns. Alternative effective strategies and tactics have to be researched and studied quickly.
Unfortunately, the actual planning process is much more difficult than simply following one rule. There is much more that goes into the process. Some suggested steps include doing the important research necessary to prepare for the campaign. The research done must be authentic and dependable where a proper study is done to really solve the disunity amongst Malaysians. As petty as it might seem, setting a strategic campaign goal of how many votes are needed to win could prove worthy. Besides that, figuring out how to analyse and target voters while developing a very good and strong campaign message that is powerful for people to accept is also important. Developing a voter contact plan and implementing that plan is also something to be considered seriously.
A political campaign is an intense experience and, when done correctly, it is also a lot of hard work. There are no tricks or short cuts to winning the confidence of the voters. The campaign workers should be commended for offering their time and skills to democracy work. The candidates on the other hand should be commended for stepping forward and offering their services to their community. In doing so they are not only serving their community; they are contributing to the democratic process as a whole.
For the next election, the political campaigners should look at issues that will affect the coming election. Some matters that should be brought up are the issues that concern voters and other political campaigns which are being waged in the specific area. What local, regional or national issues those are of high concern to voters? What will persuade voters to go to the polls? How would campaign team describe the voter mood? Will candidates help or hurt the campaign contesting? Is there the opportunity to work with other campaigns in a coordinated manner? What effect will other campaigns have on the election? The relationship between members of the party and other candidates on the same ticket will affect strategy. The campaign’s message must complement, or at least not contradict, the other messages.