As a pivotal general election looms in Malaysia, online social media tools are playing a prominent role in challenging the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s overwhelming dominance of traditional print and broadcast media.
Election campaigning took a Gangnam Style-twist on February 11 when popular South Korean musician Psy staged a live concert in Penang. BN Politicians who hoped to gain a popular boost from the global singing and dancing sensation, however, lost more face than they gained, underscoring the growing power of social media to influence public opinion.
Seeking favor with youth and ethnic Chinese voters, the BN coalition invited Psy to perform during Lunar New Year celebrations held in Penang. The concert was strategically held at the Han Chiang College, the same venue where the opposition Democratic Action Party held a mass rally just days before sweeping to power in the state at the 2008 general election.
Federal level BN politicians likely thought they had pulled off a local electoral coup by securing Psy’s presence at a free open house event organized by the Malaysian Chinese Association, a BN component party. Both the open house celebration and PSY’s performance were advertised widely on BN-aligned television stations and newspapers. Elections must be held by June but have not yet been officially called.