I was privileged to have attended a roundtable discussion on the Impact of ICT on the Malaysian Elections: Lessons for Singapore conducted the Institute of Policy Studies in NUS.
Of course, everyone in Singapore by now would have read about the great political tsunami in the recent Malaysian elections when the opposition, led by former Malaysian Deputy PM Anwar Ibrahim, toppled Barisan Nasional off their 2/3 majority in Parliament. Much had been said about the impact of the new media, when bloggers like Jeff Ooi actually made it to Parliament. Much had also been said about news websites such as Malaysiakini, Malaysia Today , the videos of Hindraf, VK Lingam, photos of the Bersih rally and Badawi sleeping and how they changed the way Malaysians received their news and thus formed their opinions
Today I got to hear these main actors first hand and I heard about their stories and what they experienced. It was inspiring. I mean, to be able to have real political competition, choice – that is something I’ve never had and hope fervently that I will.
I am not supposed to blog about the seminar because it was a closed-door session but suffice to say I just want to reflect upon the points raised in that seminar
Did Internet play a crucial role?
The feelings were mixed on this one. Internet definitely allowed voices to be heard where the mainstream press did not previously allow. It allowed ideas to float, issues to be surface: it set the agenda, an agenda that came from the bottom. Witness the Lingam video, Hindraf etc. It united people across the country, it gave a voice to the voiceless.
But is that enough? Probably not. The panelists all agreed that stepping out of cyberspace into the real world is what really mattered. That people were willing to get off the butts and off the keyboard to do what matters, mattered. So instead os just writing about MPs and wanting freedom of speech, they went out to encourage people, to empower them, to get them to walk the streets, to even be arrested.
Does an independent media make a difference?
Yes. Without Malaysiakini , without Raja Petra, would the people have known about what really went on? Would scandals have been exposed? Would there be enough to talk about? Given that MSM in Malaysia is controlled directly, owned by the political parties – a big fat no.
So, will PAP suffer the same fate as BN?
Again, no one is a fortune teller and it is hard to say. But as Yawning Bread pointed out, even if PAP lost as many votes as BN, no way would they lose as many seats. 66.6 per cent to get 82 out of 84 seats.
Three words: GRC.
We could go into a long discussion about GRCs, but better men and women have already discussed the issued to its logical end, which is that it is illogical and serves only to protect the incumbent party.
That said, PAP would do well to learn from BN, but the costs of change are high. Are they willing to pay it? Or will democracy evolve?
I am well pleased.