KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 — In 2018, both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) had banked on social media while campaigning for the 14th general election.
But how did PH achieve success where BN could not?
Analysts at the Centre of Applied Data Science (CADS) revealed that while PH had used broader messages to attract the hearts and minds of Malaysians, BN had mostly attempted to make itself and chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak look good.
It said keywords obtained from 155,615 tweets in a research conducted between March 1 and 5 showed that words such as “bendera, ROS, diturunkan” (flag, Registrar of Societies (RoS), down) had appeared for BN, while “undi (vote), change, pledged, Negaraku” popped up for PH.
“Malaysia’s GE14 is just another clear example where social media presence can literally make or reshape the face of a nation, leaving us with not a question of ‘to do or not to do social media’, but instead, of how to start building the right social media brand and profile for your organisation, party or even country,” it said in a statement.
CADS said Putrajaya’s move to prevent the registration of PH and its components Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, had adversely affected BN’s campaign regardless of whether it was intentional.
“Either by sheer coincidence or brilliant yet subtle social strategising, PH constructed the perfect ‘David vs Goliath’ narrative that held strong into Polling Day.
“Capitalising on BN’s single-persona brand built around its chairman along with overwhelming negative sentiments that were not only addressed as a matter-of-national-interest, but chided as ‘ridiculous personal attacks’, the PH coalition emerged as a solid pact,” CADS said.
Having Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the leader of PH had also helped the Opposition win a Malaysian election for the first time in 60 years against BN, CADS said.
“The words used in the ‘Amanat Malam Terakhir’ delivered by the Dr Mahathir were straight-forward, infused with overtones of imploring the people for the opportunity to heal national wounds, while constantly using keywords that were a strong reminder of the growing negative sentiment against the BN coalition,” it said, referring to the PH chairman’s address on the eve of polling.
In comparison, Najib’s final battle cry tried to dish out some last minute incentives, which among others included a tax exemption for those below the age of 26.
This, CADS said, had not gone well with the public as it was perceived as an “unfortunate alignment to the ‘cash is king’ perception”.
Gagasan Sejahtera, a loose coalition between PAS, Ikatan and others, was also constantly referred to as the “other party”, it said.
CADS, however, pointed that PAS managed to win Kelantan and Terengganu not only because these state had the lowest broadband penetration, but also because the coalition employed a more “grassroots-driven engagement”.