April 24, 2018
by Haresh Deol
KUALA LUMPUR: Nothing beats the personalised touch of a wakil rakyat.
But there are those who believe faceless interactions could be the future of campaigning during general elections.
It is important for real conversations to take place on the ground instead of just limiting it to the cyberspace, said Kemaman’s Youth Council chairman Izham Ahmad.
“Maybe 50 per cent of the battle today is online but the other crucial 50 per cent is about meeting people, talking to them,” said the 33-year-old entrepreneur.
“People need reassurance that the person they voted in will serve them after the elections. It’s like when you buy something and there’s after sales service.”
He stressed such an approach would continue to work for the next 20 to 30 years.
“Even in a modern and technologically savvy country like the US their leaders go to the ground and meet people during the presidential elections. So I don’t think social media will effectively replace party machineries any time soon … not in Kemaman at least,” Izham added.
Izham was responding to a commentary ‘Can social media effectively replace party machinery?’ (http://mole.my/can-social-media-effectively-replace-party-machinery/) published by The Mole yesterday.
Dr Zulkifli Awang, who is chairman of Masjid Pengkalan Pandan in Kemaman, said voters here read information disseminated online or through instant messaging services but made decisions based on “physical participation”.
“What they read on Facebook, Whatsapp … it’s information to keep them abreast, with what is happening. But they judge a person based on the number of times he or she has visited them,” the PhD holder in business administration said.
“If the wakil rakyat addresses the villagers by their name … whether it is Pak Abu, Siva or Ah Chong, that will make the locals very happy. It’s the same elsewhere in Terengganu. We are a close knit community and we like it that way.
“The villagers also want to see their representative during tough times … like the the annual floods.”
Dr Zulkifli said Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek had a bright chance of retaining his Parliamentary seat given his frequent visits to Kemaman throughout his tenure.
“We value the individual. We can have differing political views but if the individual has been doing a fine job all this while, how can one fault him or her for anything? This applies not just in Kemaman but elsewhere too.”
“Even as the mosque chairman I too do my rounds and it is very effective as you get to listen to the real sentiments and woes of the people.”
Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who will be contesting in Indera Mahkota, said several issues must be factored to gauge how voters best react to campaigning methods.
“The more educated voters are, the more they will rely on social media. This is because they will have access to a variety of opinions and will sieve through news they can rely on,” said the Pakatan Harapan chief secretary.
“As a candidate, besides doing my rounds I must also rely on social media especially if I want to reach out to voters who are not staying in the constituency. It’s difficult to know who is still in Indera Mahkota and who isn’t …. some of the voters in Indera Mahkota are living in Kuantan or Pekan. So I have to reach out in multiple ways.”
He admitted in very specific cases, nothing beats face to face interaction.
“The elders, those who are not in social media and those who are on social media but are not serious users … these are among the groups in semi urban and rural areas that candidates must still interact closely.”
But he said the landscape could change after the 15th General Election and beyond.
“Not at this general election but perhaps after GE15 we would see more people interacting with their wakil rakyat through instant messaging services rather than face to face. I believe it is very much a generational thing,” said Saifuddin.
“Those who are between 25 and 35 today rely on social media and in the coming elections they will soon be the ‘seniors’ and become decision makers.
“With their confidence in technology and the online sphere, don’t be surprised if they will one day ask why can’t we vote online.”