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Internet Opens Up Malaysia’s Political Struggle


Much has been made of US politicians’ use of new media technology, including the President’s crackberry addiction and the ridiculous meme that Republican’s will be able to recapture the youth vote because some of them are on twitter. But in Malaysia, where traditional media are closely monitored and tend to follow the governing party line, the Internet, Twitter, cellphone cameras and blogs seem to have opened up a political power struggle in Perak, the largest state in the country. Unidentified plainclothes personnel who may or may not have been security officials, walked into the state legislature and literally dragged the elected speaker V. Sivakumar (from the opposition) from the room and escorted the governing party’s man to his seat. According to the New York Times:

Khalil Idham Lim, an opposition assembly member, blogged throughout the heated exchanges and posted pictures, including one of the speaker being hauled away.

Malaysia’s independent news Web sites offered minute-by-minute updates. “If this event had taken place 10 years ago, people might never have known what really transpired inside the assembly,” said Ibrahim Suffian, director of the Merdeka Center, an independent polling agency.

A number of opposition members of parliament were also arrested and Web sites showed the MPs being led out in handcuffs.

This is a nice example of the Internet’s ability to empower minority parties that don’t control the press in ‘mildly authoritarian’ states and, hopefully, for Malaysians to hold the governing party accountable for what appears to be a ham-fisted response to political deadlock.

Photo from Opposition MP Khalil Idham Lim’s blog

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