Reshaping political campaigning

Sardon Zainal

By Mohammad Sardon Zainal

Political campaigns are essential to mobilise support for any candidate contesting in elections.

Candidates who have large followers, can undeniably do quite well with digital politics. With a good digital infrastructure, candidates can connect with their supporters on a daily basis. This allows them the opportunity to push their message across while at the same time relaying health messages on the current Covid-19 pandemic from the Ministry of Health.

Many would ask what virtual platform is best for political campaigns.

Since the last general election, we have seen significant shifts toward digital campaigning, micro targeting and online mobilisation be it on Facebook, Twitter or most popular via WhatsApp.

The current pandemic will push all political parties towards this direction. The pandemic will mark an end to noisy rallies and giving stirring speeches and promises. The traditional campaigning consisting of large crowds may seem improbable as of now.

With the brakes on physical public gatherings which could become a turning point in deciding the outcome of elections, all political parties will have to rely more to fishing votes through digital and electronic means.

Covid-19 movement restrictions will prevent large gatherings during the upcoming state election, hence pushing more campaigns online. Thus, all parties will have a level playing field to mobilise their support base.

The pandemic has had at least one definite and predictable effect, mobilisation by political parties will never be the same again. It has disrupted many of the ways that political campaigns would normally be conducted.

Previous trends in political mobilisation will be replaced by virtual platforms. Whether we like it or not, streaming services will be busy, service providers have to step up and fill the gap, political campaigns will go digital. But can digital politics be as effective in helping candidates get elected?

For example, in the Singapore general election on July 10 last year, the republic’s election department had to roll out a series of measures in response to the pandemic to ensure that the election could be held.

No big or small rallies pertaining to the election were allowed. Nomination centres would not admit members of the public and walkabouts, even if allowed should have social distancing and minimal physical contact.

Candidates were also not allowed to make speeches in the streets or at hotels. Meaning there were no parades during the campaigning period. Will Malaysia copycat these ideas?

In the coming state election, Covid-19 may have a negative impact of voter turnout. Will there be a law to prohibit a candidate who tested Covid-19 positive from contesting?