April 27 2017
By Dave Avran
IT’s a fact that political consultants are now more affordable, charging between a few hundred thousand to RM1 million, and their services range from data analytics to running a campaign.
A Taiwanese political consultant and an international media intelligence firm have admitted to the Malay Mail Online that they are currently providing services for Malaysian parties and candidates for the 14th general elections. The Taiwanese claims that he is working with more than 100 candidates in various parliamentary seats.
The Opposition are still leading on social media with better traction, although BN and its component parties are right on their tails.
Pakatan leaders claim to have received pro bono training from American political advertising agency The Strategy Group Company organised by the International Republican Institute (IRI). IRI as well as NDI (National Democratic Institute for International Affairs) are both under the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
NED is a George Soros vehicle via his Open Society Institute (OSI) which provides funding to opposition friendly entities like Malaysiakini, Bersih, Sarawak Report, SUARAM, C4, etc.
In view of this, the “pro bono” services provided to Pakatan takes on a whole new meaning.
Last August PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli started Invoke, a big data analytics outfit to work with 50 candidates from PKR and Amanah for the next general election.
Invoke gathers data on millions of voters from basic details like age, residential post code, gender, race and religion, to their political leaning, whether their votes are transferable between Opposition parties, as well as their stand on issues like Shariah law.
Invoke will soon start to collect socioeconomic data like jobs, income, education, spending habits, and even the kind of house we live in.
The point is to identify swing voters and to focus on campaigning to them instead of on those who will definitely vote for BN or those who are already in Pakatan’s camp.
Big data analytics enable candidates to identify issues that have traction in their constituencies, predicts how people will vote and allows PKR to tell which seats are winnable and which are not.
Andrew Claster, the deputy chief analytics officer for former US President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign oversees Invoke, visiting Malaysia every two to three months. Since everything is claimed as pro bono, who pays his expenses?
Those who think PAS is backward will be shocked to know that PAS vice-president and Selangor state executive councillor Datuk Iskandar Samad claims the Islamist party started performing big data analytics even earlier by engaging companies and groups, as well as local universities, since Election 2013.
PAS pays between RM30,000 to RM40,000 to data analytics firms to look at all PAS constituencies in Selangor (five parliament and 20 state seats) and to find out the sentiment on the ground towards PAS and other parties.
PAS hires full-time staff to manage social media, with leaders having their own teams, as well as teams at the constituency and state level. Each team comprises two to three full-time social media staff.
After the last general election in 2013, some Barisan Nasional (BN) parties have started using big data analytics to profile prospective voters.
The main component parties of the ruling coalition say they primarily use social media platforms WhatsApp and Facebook to spread their messages in both rural and urban areas.
BN parties also frequently conduct voter surveys with more than 10,000 respondents at a time to determine the electorate’s stand on issues like the Goods and Services Tax (GST), their political leaning, and basic data like their name, age, residential address, income and education level.
Umno Youth vice chief Senator Khairul Azwan Harun says the amount of personal data possessed by the ruling Malay party stands at about 1.4 million, including names, telephone numbers, IC numbers, and addresses.
MIC information chief Datuk VS Mogan says his party is currently collecting basic information such as names, contact numbers, addresses and education level from some 40,000 people who have attended party programmes.
MCA central committee member Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker says they do not engage full-time political consultants as it is expensive, but rely on INSAP, a think-tank run by MCA, to conduct voter surveys on issues like GST and the economy. MCA has 16 full-time staff in their publicity team.