KUALA LUMPUR: Candidates from political parties contesting in the upcoming 15th General Election (GE15) need to improve their online strategies as it occurs in real time, is quick and very easily disseminated to target groups.
For instance, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all candidates in the Melaka state election held in November last year had to use online methods and social media to introduce themselves and campaign aggressively as in-person campaigning and talks were not allowed.
This was because of stern measures imposed by the government during the movement control order (MCO) period that was led by the Health Ministry with the aim of protecting Malaysians’ health and to control the pandemic at that time.
National Council of Professors senior fellow Datuk Dr Jeniri Amir said political leaders have to accept the fact that in the context of digital democracy, new media is an important tool to use to win over the hearts and minds of voters.
“Social media has been used in elections since 2013 but was not so widely available….but realising its ease and low cost, candidates and political parties have used it more actively to spread the word, their ideology, manifesto and current political issues.
“Actually, any candidate can showcase themselves and what they can offer voters by just boosting their social media as generally, people will take their smartphones everywhere, and will obtain information on the spot,” he told Bernama.
Now with the additional voters who are 18 years old and are tech-savvy, Dr Jeniri said political parties must make the most of strengthening their social media teams.
He said those who prepare campaign materials in easy-to-understand infographics, visuals with attractive audio, casual and interactive would do well with the youth.
He admitted, however, the new media also allowed certain parties to spread propaganda, including slander and rumours to attack their rivals in an anonymous manner.
So candidates and political parties need to be alert and take immediate action to address wild allegations from rivals through counter discourses based on data and facts.
“We need to remember that information travels very fast on social media, so no one can wait or keep silent if attacked, they need to answer all allegations wisely with facts as these attacks can influence voters and have a negative outcome,” he added.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had urged party leaders during the launch of the Barisan Nasional (BN) Youth election machinery on Sept 17 to dominate the virtual ‘war’ and to answer all rumours and attacks by the Opposition against Barisan and the government on social media.
Meanwhile, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) political analyst Datuk Prof Dr Ismail Sualman agreed that those being attacked virtually need to resolve those allegations quickly to ensure that voters are not influenced.
He said that a balanced use of traditional media and new media under a convergence concept could help candidates and parties deliver their aspirations to voters, and said that meeting voters in person was still relevant in securing votes.
“For instance, local candidates, the residents there know them, so there’s no problem for them, but for a new candidate who has just come to contest there, they have to introduce themselves in a more conventional way, like meet-and-greet sessions with residents, using posters, conducting talks because virtual campaigning methods are still inadequate,” he said.
He also said that political campaign planners from every party need to tailor their methods to voter segments, including age and residential area, to ensure campaigning is done well.
“Youths may like online campaigns on Facebook and Twitter, but those who are older like in-person campaigns that allow them to gauge the candidate better, so political campaign planners need to implement various approaches based on their target segments,” he added. – Bernama