COMMENT: The lack of campaign activities such as political rallies, ceramahs (public talks), house calls and walks by politicians, is the glaring difference between the upcoming 12th state polls and those of the past.
Regardless of political camps, these âtraditional activitiesâ have always been one of their political tools and also the main media to disseminate information and messages more effectively when it comes to soliciting votes.
For the candidates, it is a platform to make themselves known to the voters; on the other side of the fence, it is a place for the electorate to digest information on various issues before making their decision on which candidates to vote for.
These activities can actually help build electoral momentum and set the mood, and quite often, especially during political âceramahâ, the thrill and excitement can be electrifying.
‘It’s anyone’s guess’
For the 12th state election on December 18, however, all of these election-related activities would be banned and whether or not that will affect anything is up to everyone to guess.
In this regard, politics veteran Dr Gregory Hii believes that “all is not lost” because despite the ban, election candidates can still make themselves known through social media and online campaigns. .
Nonetheless, he admits it would be harder for them to reach out to voters and “win their hearts and minds.”
“Face to face meetings with voters certainly carry more weight, but if there is no choice then the social media campaign would be the next resort,” he told the Borneo Post here .
Hii suggested that applicants create their own video projects and post them online or other virtual facilities to promote themselves.
âThis is what some potential candidates for the upcoming elections are already doing now – indeed, candidates who can cope with the new reality and make full use of the internet facilities would certainly have the advantage.
âThis is the new normal that people have to face due to the Covid-19 pandemic, unlike previous elections where free-for-all activities were carried out.
“I am sure this unprecedented election, subject to strict standard operating procedures (SOP), will go into the record books as ‘the most memorable’.”
For the incumbents, whatever their political camp, who had behaved well and had constantly given up, Hii ââfelt that they would not have to worry too much about their chances of being re-elected without the help from all traditional political activities.
âIf you had a good background, why are you worried?
âWhen voters need you, you are there to serve them. That should be enough to give you the confidence to be re-elected.
“But for those who haven’t played when given the chance to do so, they might as well withdraw instead of continuing to bet on their luck for the win.”
Nonetheless, Hii ââsaid that with the high likelihood that this election will feature many fights from multiple angles, it could be at a disadvantage for opposition parties as their position in the polls would divide opposition votes.
Huge challenge for candidates
In his opinion, veteran politician Dr William Ting said the ban on all political activity would deal a severe blow to opposition parties in their attempt to win the election.
âThey won’t have the chance to talk to people face to face, and they won’t have the government’s electoral mechanism to use.
âIt will be a huge challenge for the candidates to reach out to people. It makes no sense for an election like this, which is unfair and lacks democracy.
Ting questioned whether the ban on all conventional political activity was necessary to limit people’s physical contact as much as possible and thereby curb the spread of Covid-19, then why the rush to call the elections.
âThey might as well postpone the election until the situation improves.
âIn the past, all elections have been conducted with great fanfare – political rallies, ‘ceramah’, door-to-door campaigns, etc.
“I have to say it will surely be a quiet election.”
Ting believed that without political rallies, “political newbies” would certainly have less chance of winning elections than seasoned politicians or incumbents.
He argued that online campaigns might not be “as effective” as many elderly voters would not have “the electronic gadgets“.
“Many of them also do not have access to the Internet and are hardly aware of what is going on during the elections.”
Nonetheless, he also observed that this time around, political parties would spend less on campaign activities as the budget for travel, organizing public debates and preparing campaign materials had been removed from the list. .
Some major concerns
Sibu MP Oscar Ling said the restrictions imposed by the SOP on state elections were “unfair” to opposition parties, given that they did not or could not use the mechanisms of the government. government to solicit votes.
The federal legislator of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) said its main concern was the lack of internet connectivity in Sarawak, especially in many rural areas.
“We may have to rely on existing media platforms to campaign under the new normal, and it will be a whole different experience for the candidates and also for the electorate.”
Ling said the candidates would use a “hybrid campaign style”, including through social media platforms, to reach voters.
âFor those who are less tech-savvy, we’ll have to find a way to involve them,â he said.
Sarawak’s elections, which should have been called sooner after the end of the state’s last term in legislature but were postponed due to the declaration of emergency due to the pandemic, will take place this month. ci – with nomination on December 6, start of voting on December 14 and election day on December 18.