With only two weeks left before elections, Malaysia’s political parties are ratcheting up their battle on social media, even before the start of official campaigning on Saturday. At stake are young and newly registered voters, as well as a substantial number of people still undecided. Voters under 40 years old account for 41% of the 15 million eligible voters. The country’s high smartphone penetration rate of 76% lets politicians target groups with help from analytics services provided by social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Official data shows that 97% of social media users are on Facebook, making Malaysia one of the most socially engaged countries in the world. “It is now time to attack,” said Prime Minister Najib Razak in a blog last April, referring to pro-ruling party social media activities.
He conceded that Barisan Nasional, or the National Front, coalition was unprepared in the previous general election in 2013, leaving the ruling party unable to counter accusations by the opposition.
This time around, the ruling coalition appears to be better coordinated, placing election advertisements daily in almost all local media. The ads, whether online or in print, trumpet the coalition’s success at running the country uninterrupted since independence in 1957, and highlight the promises of its current platform.