Join 3,561 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Malaysia's Election: An Indonesian comparison
May 7, 2013 2:35 AM   Subscribe

"For the two weeks of Malaysia’s election campaign, I was one of a group of researchers from the University of Malaya and various overseas institutions that toured through every one of Malaysia’s 13 states, witnessing the night time election rallies (ceramah), speaking to campaign workers and candidates, and generally trying to take the political pulse of this highly varied country."

Edward Aspinall, Professor of South East Asian studies at the Australian National University contrasts his experience of the recent Malaysian election with elections in his area of speciality, Indonesia.
posted by smoke (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
First, and most blatant, is control of the media. For someone used to the cacophonous and sometimes highly irreverent print and electronic media of Indonesia, it was a shock to daily read the monotonous and biased fare dished up by Malaysian newspapers. Through the campaign period, both English and Malay language newspapers churned out a torrent of laudatory reports on the government and highly critical – sometimes laughably hysterical – reports on the opposition. Readers were repeatedly warned that the opposition coalition was a shambles, that it was irredeemably divided internally and that chaos would ensue if it won. No surprise there for anyone who knows a minimum about Malaysian politics, but I have to admit I was taken aback by the brazenness of the partisanship. Even in the late Suharto years, the Indonesian press was never this bad.

However, as almost everyone – from both government and opposition – told us, such media control is becoming less effective as a growing proportion of the population, especially young people, turn to social media and online news sources for information.


Independent newspapers don't matter because we have social media is a foolish and dangerous conclusion.
posted by three blind mice at 3:04 AM on May 7, 2013


I'm intrigued that somehow, in your head "less effective" became "doesn't matter", and that this is what you took from the piece.
posted by smoke at 3:41 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Article I read today highlighted a growing racial divide with the rural Malays firmly behind Barisan Nasional, and the urban Malays and all the chinese voting for Pakatan Rakyat, with rural votes due to gerrymander being worth about six times urban votes.
posted by wilful at 3:53 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess this could be true in a lot of Asian cultures, but in my time here I've really noticed this appearance / reality dichotomy. What's of value and importance is the appearance - this applies to work, religion, politics. So the article doesn't surprise me - Malaysians earnestly conduct fake elections and everyone pretends that they're a democracy.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:53 AM on May 7, 2013


three blind mice, let me introduce you to Malaysiakini, the independent online newspaper.

I've met lots of young Malaysian students studying in Melbourne through my job, and have several now as Facebook friends. My newsfeed is pretty full of angry young Malaysians, both ethnic Malays and ethnic Chinese, that are pretty pissed about how things went down this time.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:01 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The gerrymander held! The system works!

I was wondering how this bullshit election would play out. I was expecting Umno to miraculously win by 51% to 49%, but this miracle victory is even more praiseworthy!
posted by Wolof at 4:28 AM on May 7, 2013


There is something to be said about what three blind mice said. Right now my Facebook feed is a potent mix of unvalidated rumours and outright tinhattery. But what can you expect from a broken information/media ecosystem?
posted by cendawanita at 5:31 AM on May 7, 2013


(I wonder if the mods could also fix the typo in the post title?)
posted by cendawanita at 5:32 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


My newsfeed is pretty full of angry young Malaysians, both ethnic Malays and ethnic Chinese, that are pretty pissed about how things went down this time.

I recently relocated to Kuala Lumpur (left Kenya just before their elections!), but have been here long enough to begin to get the pulse leading up to and during the elections.

I agree with you that there's a lot of angry young Malaysians that are pretty pissed, but its not just about "this time." As far as I can tell there is both anger and disillusion because nothing is changing and this outcome is exactly what could have been (and for many, was) predicted well in advance of the elections here.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:34 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


[typos fixed, carry on]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:51 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Regardless, talking about social media and mainstream media, this article inadvertently encapsulates the present dynamic very well:

Cops investigating Utusan, two bloggers for sedition -- '“A police report was received related to Utusan Malaysia’s publication that smacked of sedition. The case is being investigated under Sect 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948,” the police posted on their twitter account, @PDRMsia.'
posted by cendawanita at 6:27 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was in KL, on vacation, during the middle two weeks of April; coming from the UK the newspaper coverage looked strikingly biased. Sufficiently so that I was wondering if they'd been stealing the playbook from Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew.
posted by cstross at 7:28 AM on May 7, 2013


Najib Razak was a piss-poor Minister of Education and an even worse Prime Minister. Malaysian politics went off the rails with the demonization and victimization of Anwar and have only gotten worse since. I'm both disheartened and frustrated at the results and the stranglehold UMNO/Barisan Nasional has over the country. Then again, any opposition which includes PAS is problematic.

Frankly, if the economic picture in Malaysia were to go sour I would start worrying about riots. Since the outlook is still fairly rosy, no-one is really motivated to rock the boat too much, especially with the government stranglehold over the press.
posted by ooga_booga at 2:03 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Malaysian Insider is another excellent source for independent English-language news.

In Sarawak, the election was basically between those who have read the Sarawak Report, and those who have not yet done so.
posted by BinGregory at 4:39 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


because nothing is changing and this outcome is exactly what could have been (and for many, was) predicted well in advance of the elections here.

That's a bit pessimistic. The opposition won the popular vote for the first time in history, continued to gain seats at the Federal level, and had a tremendous showing at the state level, nearly taking Terengganu and Negeri Sembilan. The Chinese ethnic parties (MCA & SUPP) were annihilated, while DAP now has at least two Federal seats held by Malays and several by Indians. It really isn't fair to keep calling DAP an ethnic party. It never has been ideologically, and now it isn't in practice either. The opposition is now entrenched in the three states they hold, and they are acting like a true coalition, not competing for seats as in 2008, and cooperating and sharing power in a very mature manner (despite Khalid not yet being confirmed as MB and the two Selangor state seats lost because of PAS). Najib will almost certainly be sacked as PM upon the next UMNO party meeting due to his poor showing. Demographic trends being what they are, it is very difficult to see a bright future for the ruling coalition in the next five years. UMNO's only chance is pulling hard to the right, which we've already seen in the first two days, but with PAS now a reliable member of the opposition, and UMNO's strong reliance on East Malaysia (where Malays are a minority) for support, there's a limit to how ultra-Malay they can be.
posted by BinGregory at 4:51 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Undi.info for detailed voting stats for the past three General Elections.
posted by BinGregory at 4:52 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was in KL, on vacation, during the middle two weeks of April; coming from the UK the newspaper coverage looked strikingly biased. Sufficiently so that I was wondering if they'd been stealing the playbook from Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew.
posted by cstross at 7:28 AM on May 7 [+] [!]


Well, there is very close links between the two countries. And the Straits Times is hilarious in that way that if you don't laugh, you'll cry.

But things are starting to change in Singapore as well from what I can tell. I did summer lecturing there from 2009-2011. The first year, you could almost hear the students self-censoring, it was that palpable. Then, the last election there seemed to change the mood somewhat, and a lot of that was connected to people using social media to voice their displeasure with the status quo. The PDP still won the election, but symbolically their share of the vote fell quite a lot.

Has Mefi ever had a FPP on Mr Brown? A quick search isn't turning anything up.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:04 PM on May 7, 2013


The awesomest MSM story of the elections season has got to be Anwar Ibrahim's utter failure to pull his Teh Tarik. Rough translation:
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim certainly is a politician who tries to show himself as an "expert" in everything. Simply put, if other leaders can't do it, he can, and if other leaders don't do it, he will.
So it was when, while campaigning in Petaling Jaya yesterday, Anwar tried to show how he supposedly was an expert in making Teh Tarik.
But look what happened: maybe Anwar felt that with his sturdy body, he would be able to control everything that he held, but in fact "Anwar Teh Tarik" spilled all over - all because Anwar has no expertise in this field.
That's why Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, once reminded us through his holy words meaning "Whenever an affair is given unto a man unfamiliar with it, it will surely be ruined." (Related by Bukhari).
Undoubtedly, this hadith can also be applied to the realm of politics.
posted by BinGregory at 7:24 PM on May 7, 2013


Sometimes I really do think my country was dreamt up in a satirist's fever dream. In any case, the people's developed a fine sense of parody if the #apalagicinamahu (what more do the chinese want) and #apacinamahu (what does the chinese want) is of any indication. Bonus, it's giving the people (who are raised in an environment that fosters latent ethnic prejudice) a chance to actually testify to their racial unity. Though they probably need to work on the the migrant worker xenophobia.
posted by cendawanita at 5:29 AM on May 8, 2013


probably need to work on the the migrant worker xenophobia.

Hear, hear. I want to get a "Phantom Voter" T-shirt made but I don't know if I'd have the guts to wear it.
posted by BinGregory at 6:55 AM on May 8, 2013


« Older In 1965 guitar legend Jimi Hendrix was doing the c...  |  A twenty-five minute doctument... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments