All Ears on Hot Button Issues Ahead of Malaysia State Polls, With Rising Popularity of Podcasts Among Politicians

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Podcasts have emerged as a new vehicle to drive political campaign messages in Malaysia in recent months, as the country heads towards a round of state elections this weekend.

A podcast is an audio programme made available in digital format for download over the Internet.

Residents from six states – Selangor, Kelantan, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah and Penang – will vote for their lawmakers in the state assemblies on Saturday (Aug 12).

An estimated 9.7 million eligible voters will cast their ballots. Analysts predict the results will maintain the status quo, with the Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional coalitions retaining power in their respective states. 

Ahead of the polls, more Malaysian politicians are jumping on the podcasting bandwagon, in hopes of expanding their voter reach.

Some podcasts were started by former politicians, and the success of their reach has attracted other political office bearers to hop on the trend.

TAKING TO SOCIAL MEDIA

At the last general election in November last year, candidates took to social media to spread their messages and attract voters.

This trend has continued, said Mr Amir Fareed, director of strategy at political risk consultancy KRA Group.

Podcasts are leading the wave during these two weeks of campaigning for the weekend’s state elections.

Mr Amir Fareed, director of strategy at political risk consultancy KRA Group.

“Podcasting is an important tool because you choose when you want to listen to it, how you want to listen to it, and politicians can explain issues without having to use rhetoric,” said Mr Amir, noting that political rhetoric is used on the campaign trail.

“Podcasts are becoming a perception shaping tool that is then amplified through TikTok.”

Mr Amir said voters’ perceptions are now shaped even during the off-election season through such platforms.

DISADVANTAGES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

However, youngsters face the challenge of distinguishing between what is real and fake news on such platforms.

One young Kedah resident told CNA: “I do not have time to watch TV so all my news is from TikTok. But what I will do after I read the articles is I will check if they are true or not because we cannot read the headlines only, we need to know the full and true story also.”

Another voter said that he does not fully believe everything he reads online.

Malaysia’s youngsters are facing a challenge of distinguishing between what is real and fake news on various platforms. (File photo: Bernama)

“If you want to find out if it is true, you will have to find the article. For social media, sometimes it is not true, sometimes it is true. I do not believe 100 per cent,” he told CNA.

Despite the importance of such social media tools, politicians still go back to the basics by going on the ground to get up close and personal with their supporters.

But all the messaging and outreach, whether in person or online, are only important if voters are motivated to go to the ballot box.

VOTER APATHY

One key election concern this time round is voter apathy.

Some fear that not many Malaysians working overseas would return for the local polls, while others are worried that voters are getting tired of elections and politicians’ rhetoric.

More voters will be motivated to vote and let their voices be heard after last year’s general election produced a hung parliament. (AP Photo/JohnShen Lee, File)

However, Mr Amir said that more voters will be motivated to vote and let their voices be heard as they have “a bit of an unsettled business”, after last year’s general election produced a hung parliament. 

“That means there’s a big chunk of people who voted a certain way (but) did not see their parties or their candidates in power,” he explained.