Malaysia: The high key GE14 battle by KHOR Yu Leng

Campaigning is in full swing for Malaysia’s 14th General Election (GE14). The focus is on speculation about how Malay voters (especially rural) will choose between Najib’s Barisan Nasional and Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan.

Please also read our review on issues of low politics:  Malaysia - The political-economy of land development (or the politics of floods) by KHOR Yu Leng

High-key issues and “your vote is secret” dominate in the Peninsula

Many eyes are on social media exchanges on mobile phones. There has been a major change in social media reach between GE13 and GE14. Some urban chat groups are full of worries about whether Malaysia will suffer a debt trap like Sri Lanka, overburdened by (white elephant) infrastructure projects. China projects have featured in headlines too. There are anecdotes on Whatsapp of how Malay families are split on whom to support.

 BN's "Long live the people" banner printed in China. Photo: R. Chua

BN's "Long live the people" banner printed in China. Photo: R. Chua

In fact, Malay voters are keeping their views close to their chest, and the likes of Rafizi’s Invoke Malaysia have been reporting a rising portion of “undecideds / my vote is secret” in their polling results (the latest poll shows Malay fence sitters suddenly joined by a rising number of Chinese too). A retired Malay civil servant said: “You must understand my culture, such silence means they are making up their mind. This is a tough sign for BN.”  Voters are also asking if messages about cash handouts conditional on sworn support are fake news.

Mahathir’s leadership of a united opposition under Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat captures interest and is transformational. The recent emergence of Rafidah Aziz and Daim (“the Oracle”) Zainuddin as opposition supporters add to this. The surprise split in the family of the late and respected Tok Guru of PAS appeared with Nik Omar nominated as a candidate for Amanah.

 Nik Omar as a guest at Bangi, Selangor

Nik Omar as a guest at Bangi, Selangor

 

Mahathir and Nik Omar are seen as galvanising a wide spectrum of Malay voters. They spoke to 10,000 in Putrajaya (the administrative capital of Malaysia and a Barisan Nasional stronghold) while another 60,000 viewed them on live webcast.  5,000 people joined Mahathir, Daim, Rafidah in Malacca.The issues they address are high key.

The Navy Chief has openly told Navy personnel that their vote is secret and they are free to make their own choice, reminding them to refrain from political activity. The Inspector-General of Police assured his personnel similarly. These seem to be in reaction to Mahathir’s recent open letters to the armed forces chiefs and the police force.

 

In GE13 there were over 90,000 votes cast in military-based polling stations and almost 50,000 in police-based. Here, they voted 80% and 84% for Barisan Nasional, respectively; and the votes cast for PAS candidates was 2-4% in aggregate (but under the circumstance of PAS being part of the opposition coalition).
— Data: Election Commission and estimates by the author

Climbing down from high politics and big business, we have Malaysian voters feeling the pinch of the cost of living amidst relatively stagnant incomes and rising cost of living pressure (Read our Johor case study, examining the cost of living and housing affordability for urban and rural folk; and Bank Negara’s concerns about a living wage). The effect of the GST and the long term weakening of the Malaysian Ringgit does not help, but a pre-election currency appreciation and rising oil prices (while pump prices are carefully kept on hold) help the Najib administration in various ways.

What hope amidst mudslinging?

While there is a litany of criticisms on policy and governance on the long-ruling coalition, the opposition have not been spared complaints. The rumblings against the opposition run states (including anti-corruption allegations in Penang and Selangor) are often defended as politically motivated. The asymmetry of findings on 1MDB-related allegations (multiple foreign prosecutions and asset seizures, plus mega-yacht Equanimity and big headlines in Indonesia versus domestic “no case - no action”) is obvious. It has those in Malaysia (and globally) caught up in similar concerns (but involving lesser alleged amounts) pointing to the US Department of Justice 1MDB case in mitigation.

Given mudslinging across the political spectrum, some urbanites think that it’s not about who will govern better. The more gloomy ask this: “What is the difference?” The optimistic point out that checks and balances are necessary to have a responsible government, and that can only happen if those who govern know they will be held to account. So they refute all those who say that nothing will change, even if they vote for the (tarnished) opposition.

The wags point out that voters should choose the opposition even if there are shortcomings. Then, Malaysians can enjoy having (the alleged governance-challenged) Barisan Nasional as watchdogs, keen to be voted back in the next time. Then vote out the “opposition” if it underperforms, and bring back Barisan Nasional. And so on. But of course, urban intellectuals point out that there also needs to be reform of the Malaysia electoral system.

East Malaysia’s misgivings about “Malaya”

As the Opposition in the Peninsula pressed onwards with criticisms towards the ruling government, the Najib Administration spent 2016 - 2017 negotiating significant governance-related deals with East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. Both states have long held misgivings about the Federal Government’s focus on Peninsular Malaysia or “Malaya”, especially with regards to economic development. Due to their large non-Muslim populations there have also been clear misgivings, notably in Sarawak, about PAS’ push for the introduction of hudud. Barisan Nasional is seen as an enabler for the tabling of Hadi Awang’s RUU355 private member bill in Parliament.

In 2017, the Sarawak state government sent a team to review the recently declassified documents pertaining to the Malaysia Act of 1963 (MA63), and returned with findings related to the rights of Sarawak on land and sea matters.

Furthermore, in recent years Sarawak undertook a series of actions to regain control over the lucrative oil and gas industry, including introducing a moratorium on employing non-Sarawakians in Petronas, establishment of Petroleum Sarawak (PETROS), and initiated a takeover full regulatory oversight of upstream and downstream oil and gas operations from Petronas. Sarawak continued to exercise its MA63 rights and pursuit of self-governance through the acquisition of Bakun dam (the largest potential source of hydroelectricity energy in Sarawak with 2,400 MW installed capacity), and the establishment of the Sarawak Development Bank.

Issues in Sabah include security concerns that spilled over from the 2013 standoff between Malaysian security forces and Sulu insurgents in Lahad Datu (early on attributed to a land conflict or misunderstanding and later overtaken by Suluk territorial claims), misgivings about the withholding of rights under the Malaysia Act of 1963, and transportation infrastructure concerns across the state.

While Sarawak’s political class appears very united, Sabah will face a political contest, with the challenge brought by Shafie Apdal’s Sabah Heritage Party (Warisan). A possible voter swing is eyed. This has also been characterised anti-corruption allegations (Shafie called to MACC) and intra-family political rivalry. With a pact (but not a formal alliance), can Warisan bring crucial seat numbers to the Pakatan Harapan challenge for the mandate to rule Malaysia?

Heavy-handed moves amidst expectation of an “easy win”

Polling day is on Wednesday, 9 May 2018. The midweek election is unprecedented and is expected to suppress voter turnout.  We are keeping an eye on how up to 3.5 million Malaysian voters get on the road, needing to head back to their hometowns or villages to cast their vote.

The international consensus seems to be for an easy Najib win (with gerrymandering, malapportionment and other tactics), but with more seats for Pakatan Harapan. Some regular urban voters ask if Najib-BN’s recent slew of heavy-handed moves signal that things are worse for BN than they had realised. These include the deregistration of Mahathir’s party that unexpectedly pushed the opposition under one flag. The midweek polling day gave rise to a social media movement (but it has come under cyber attack). Mahathir is being investigated for fake news as he alleged sabotage that grounded his jet on nomination day. His picture is being removed from posters, with new restrictions on campaigning; while Bersih asks about like action against Barisan Nasional figures. Perhaps it is no surprise that so many media outlets across Malaysia are referring to GE14 as “the mother of all elections”.

Assisted by Jeamme Chia.

#Malaysia #PRU14 #GE14 #PoliticalEconomy #NajibRazak #GE14chedet 

(c) 2018, Khor Yu Leng. All rights reserved.

Malaysia: The political economy of social media in GE14

A report by Khor Yu Leng, with map data analytics and comments featured in The Straits Times, Singapore.

Malaysia communications has rapidly evolved between GE13 and GE14. Just a couple of years ago only available in the urban-industrial regions, there is now readier access to mobile social media use as wider telco coverage has arrived.

Survey data about online markets points to 21 million or 68% of Malaysia’s 31 million population as active WhatsApp users as of 3Q2017. By comparison 65% of Germans and 40% of Indonesians were WhatsApp users. Anecdotally, some rural East Malaysians report that their families now have WhatsApp groups. By contrast, even Peninsula urban users in GE13 did not have mobile messaging groups.

The change in geospatial reach is shown in Diagram 1a: Expanding Broadband Coverage (upper), which highlights 4G coverage areas claims (green) by the major telcos. This analysis takes 4G as a proxy indicator for cost-efficient 3G services that the wider population could start to use. 

For instance, on a prepaid service basic high-speed internet plans are RM35-45/month with unlimited messaging. Official data on household expenditure pegs spending by  Johor rural households on phone services at RM150/month. This suggests that three family members could already afford this with a fourth and fifth at a pinch; if they all have smartphones.

 Diagram 1: Expanding broadband coverage

KhorReports-StraitsTimes4G.JPG

Khor Reports map data analytics

Featured in The Straits Times, Singapore. Source: Khor Yu Leng, Khor Reports - Segi Enam Advisors   Data: Celcom and DiGi for 4G coverage and author’s estimates for Felda-FGV zones.

Diagram 1b: Expanding Broadband Coverage (lower) shows Johor’s parliamentary constituencies, Felda areas (blue) and mobile social media zones (GE14 green and GE13 orange)

How will mobile social media be used in GE14?

We look at the use of Twitter in this brief review. Many Malaysia political analysts view Twitter as a niche segment of particularly vocal urbanites tapping out their views on their smartphones. In that regard, we should interpret this useful dataset as the tip of the proverbial Malaysia social media iceberg.

Malaysian politicians are all active on Twitter. The number of Twitter followers for the top leaders of the ruling and opposition coalitions are shown below, alongside their latest tweet mentions and hashtags.

   Table 1: Twitter and key political leaders

 Table 1: Twitter and key political leaders

Hashtags  (a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark #) within a tweet facilitates searches by identifying a topic of interest or keyword. A preliminary look at a recent week’s of data, shows that use of Twitter hashtags has hardly been “saturative.”

Even the presence of the much talked-about pro-Barisan Nasional cybertroopers seems fairly contained on Twitter (they are considered more active on Facebook, including disrupting comments flows). This is apparent at #KamiGengNajibRazak where sentiment is decidedly more positive than at #NajibRazak. Lower engagements for party or coalition hashtags show weak coordinated usage so far.  

   Diagram 2: Selected Twitter hashtags in a recent week

 Diagram 2: Selected Twitter hashtags in a recent week

It appears that issue related hashtags are more prominent in Twitter Malaysia. While #1MDB and #Felda are viewed by analysts as niche issues (not likely swaying the average voter from supporting Barisan Nasional), they are popular on Twitter. Basic economics is seen as being core issues for opposition politicians to activate voter discontent, but the cost of living and #GST are not active issues in tweets.

Those eyeing direct messaging battles could look at #KamiGengNajibRazak versus #KalahkanPencuri (“Defeat the thief”) and #UndiRosak versus #KeluarMengundi.The former has its active promoters (and its detractors or "trolls") accounting for its active mentions.

A lower turnout is a broad worry for GE14, and a vote spoiling group has been a concern. However, “Go Vote” appears more organic in its use (relies less on hyperactive authors or influencers; for instance, those promoting #UndiRosak have to be at least 3x as active) and has an engagement factor of 2.9x versus 0.6x for the “Spoil Your Vote” movement.

   Diagram 3: GOTV Twitter hashtags in a recent week

 Diagram 3: GOTV Twitter hashtags in a recent week

The findings of this review suggests there is still room for more social media activity by both the ruling and opposition coalitions (and individuals therein) as well as by civil society.

Digital reach of political parties thanks to wider telco coverage

In the case of Johor, the digital reach is potentially complete across the entire state, with the exception of the forest zones. However, zooming in on telco maps, rural coverage is actually along the main roads and around key settlements. Rural digital mobile users have to be near villages or the roads to access content, and likely would not have high-speed access from their home or in the field. Whilst not enjoying the same level of immediate access as urban users, this is still a major change from 2013. This affordable access to digital social media is unprecedented, especially in rural Peninsular Malaysia, along the coastal belts and in Johor (Diagram 1a and 1b). 

Mobile broadband connections were accessed by 14% of the population in the previous election cycle and now that has risen to about 54% (68% unique mobile users x 80% of mobile connections that are broadband; 2013 versus 2017 in WAS reports for Jan 2014 and Jan 2018).

Major findings:

  • Malaysia communications has rapidly evolved between GE13 and GE14.
  • Affordable access to digital social media is unprecedented, especially in rural Peninsular Malaysia, along the coastal belts and in Johor.
  • A preliminary look at a recent week’s of data, shows that use of Twitter hashtags has hardly been “saturative.” Lower engagements for party or coalition hashtags show weak coordinated usage so far.  It appears that issue related hashtags are more prominent in Twitter Malaysia. Basic economics is seen as being core issues for opposition politicians to activate voter discontent, but the cost of living and #GST are not active issues in tweets.
  • There is still room for more social media activity by both the ruling and opposition coalitions (and individuals therein) as well as by civil society.
  • Mobile broadband connections were accessed by 14% of the population in the previous election cycle and now that has risen to about 54%.

 

With map data analytics assisted by Jeamme Chia.

#KhorReports #Malaysia #Johor #PoliticalEconomy #SocialMedia #GeneralElection #GE14 #PRU14 #DataScience #Twitter 

(c) 2018, Khor Yu Leng. All rights reserved.

Khor Reports - palm oil news dashboard, Apr 2018

Here is #KhorReports #PalmOil blog news wrap in a new format - as a dashboard. We hope you find it useful! Please click on supply-side and/or demand-side issues. You can also select by country and news topic (type 1 and type 2, for sub-type). It's all interlinked. 

For now, this is best accessed on a desktop / tablet. A phone layout has been set up, but we are figuring out the access. Please try the "enter full screen mode" option in the grey bar at the bottom right of the dashboard.

The Khor Reports' Palm Oil Blog archive (2011-1Q2018) has been transported here.

(c) 2018, Khor Reports - Segi Enam Advisors Pte Ltd. All rights reserved.

A Malaysia General Election exodus? Selected indicators

Malaysia's 13th General Election in 2013 points to a bifurcated Malaysia socio-political landscape. Very simply, it is ‘urban for Pakatan’ (the opposition coalition) and ‘rural for UMNO-BN’ (the long-ruling coalition).

The recent announcement of an unprecedented  midweek polling day, Wednesday 9th May 2018 for the 14th General Election is contentious. The worry in the political contest is that outstation voters are affected. They work in the bigger urban areas (the Klang Valley, Johor Bahru, Penang and Singapore) and they tend to be opposition supporters. These voters need to travel some distance intra or inter-state or further including from Peninsular to East Malaysia to return home to vote.

Khor Reports' data map below shows selected indicators from PLUS and Waze for festive season travel hot spots. In addition, we provide some popular estimates for key outstation voter and resident segments. We expect to update and upgrade this map.

READ our commentary piece released by Channel News Asia, 13 Apr 2018. The map graphic illustrates key data points referred therein.

#KhorReports #Malaysia #GE14 #PRU14 #PoliticalEconomy #GeneralElection #Migrants #Traffic #Data #SocialMedia #PulangMengundi #Waze

 (c) 2018 Khor Reports - Segi Enam Advisors Pte Ltd. All rights reserved.

(c) 2018 Khor Reports - Segi Enam Advisors Pte Ltd. All rights reserved.

Malaysia: Johor property & prices, Jan 2018

There could be a quarter million Singaporeans  visiting Johore each week. Thanks to newly available data about cross-border traffic volumes we have better estimates of the to-and-fros of Singaporeans and Johoreans. Are Singaporeans really to blame for pushing up Johor property values (Part 1) and the cost of everyday goods and services (Part 2)? The simplistic blame-the-Singaporean game seems to be long over-stated. The data and a wider reading of the issue suggests strong domestic forces at play too.

There is no doubt that Singapore cash is sought by restaurants, retailers, and property developers. Johor households are impacted by rising prices; with urban and rural folk also pinched by household debt. Recent surveys point to pro-development views among Johoreans (especially rural), along with a dip anti-Singaporean feelings. Do they recognise homegrown issues contributing to Johor’s price inflation; and do they balance this against income opportunities from Singapore FDI and its open job market?

In Part 1, we review the indicators for the property sector and found it hard to lay the blame fully on just one sector of buyers - Singaporeans. In Part 2, the data suggests that the impact of foreign visitors adds to domestic-origin pressures; and Johor suffers the highest price inflation in all Malaysia. Urban households face debt concerns and rural households are pressured by price increases.

#Malaysia #Johor #Singapore #AffordableHousing #CostofLiving #HouseholdDebt #Felda #KhorReports

Read Part 1 by clicking here: On Johor Property by KHOR Yu Leng 

Read Part 2 by clicking here: On Johor Prices by KHOR Yu Leng

 Johor price inflation versus other states  (c) 2018 Khor Reports - Segi Enam Advisors Pte Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Johor price inflation versus other states

(c) 2018 Khor Reports - Segi Enam Advisors Pte Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

 Johor Bahru urban household and Johor Felda rural household surplus and debt  (c) 2018 Khor Reports - Segi Enam Advisors Pte Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Johor Bahru urban household and Johor Felda rural household surplus and debt

(c) 2018 Khor Reports - Segi Enam Advisors Pte Ltd. All Rights Reserved.