Malaysian Bloggers Make Political Run

    February 26, 2008

Bloggers in Malaysia are having an impact on the political process as the country prepares for elections next month.

Three well-known bloggers, who are opponents of the ruling party that has been in power for fifty years, are running for the first time as candidates on March 8, counting on their online popularity to bring in votes.

Malaysian Bloggers Make Political Run Jeff Ooi
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"Everyone of us has a stake in the country’s future, but talk is cheap. We now need to walk the walk," said Jeff Ooi, a popular blogger who is running for a seat in northern Penang state for the opposition Democratic Action Party, Reuters reported. Ooi has become popular for writing a blog focused on politics called "Screenshots" and has attracted readers beyond the pro-government mainstream media.

Tony Pua is another well-known blogger running on a DAP ticket who began blogging three years ago after opening a high-tech business. "I’ve had opportunities to migrate but I decided that Malaysia is my home," Pua said. "So the next question is what should I do to make it better?"

A third popular political blogger, Badrul Hisham Shaharin is finding it challenging to reach people due to limited Internet access in the rural Malay majority seat where he is running. " I admit that is difficult because my blog is not accessible here, but I am getting a lot of help from fellow bloggers," he said.

The politically focused Malaysian blogosphere is considered troublesome to the government for it sometimes critical political and social commentaries that are not inline with the rest of the mainstream media. The government said last year it could force bloggers to register with officials to reduce the spread of malicious content on the Web.

Government supporters are skeptical about the impact the political bloggers will have. "Beyond the major cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang, there’s not much the bloggers can really hope to accomplish," says Mohamad Norza Zakaria, a leader in Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s UMNO party.

Just a fifth of Malaysians have Internet access and there are 10.9 million voters in the nation of 26 million people.