KUALA LUMPUR: The 14-day official campaign period for the 15th General Election (GE15) will kick off tomorrow as soon as nominations are completed.
But the campaigning, albeit unofficially, had started even before Parliament was dissolved on Oct 10, with most of the action taking place on social media where politicians and party workers are trying hard to garner support.
Some experts say conventional or physical campaigning, such as going on the ground to meet constituents, giving talks or ceramah, and putting up party flags and posters, is still relevant and has the power to attract voters, notably fence-sitters.
Whether done conventionally or digitally, the people behind these campaigns have only one aim, which is to captivate the hearts and minds of the 21,173,638 voters who are eligible to vote in GE15 on Nov 19.
Psychologist Dr Wan Marzuki Wan Jaafar feels that conventional campaigning still has a place in society.
He said that door-to-door campaigning, community programmes and political ceramah still have what it takes to influence voters because face-to-face interactions often reveal a candidate’s true nature, that is, whether or not they are sincere and caring.
“The candidate may just be there to greet and say ‘hello’ to the constituents, but the conventional platform is still the best way for the local community to get to know their candidates better. It’s also the ideal space for candidates or their parties to clarify various issues.
“And once voters get to know their candidates’ wishes and agenda, they will know who to vote for,” he said when contacted by Bernama recently.
He added that campaigning on the ground can help voters evaluate their candidates’ personalities from all angles, that is, in terms of their speech, body language and manners, thus allowing them to assess the sincerity of the candidates.
Wan Marzuki said the excitement of a general election could only be felt when public areas are inundated with flags and posters of various political parties.
In fact, the number of flags and posters put up by a party in an area is an indirect reflection of its “strength”, he noted.
“From the psychological angle, physical campaigning or poster and flag wars have an indirect impact on displaying the strength of a leader or party.
“No party or candidate can ignore the flag war strategy or physical campaigning during elections,” he added.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) political science senior lecturer Dr Jamaie Hamil agreed that political parties should not ignore the conventional platform, saying that it is the most effective medium for candidates to introduce themselves to the people and explain their manifestos.
Political analyst Dr Russli Kamarudin, however, believes that conventional campaigning is only relevant in situations involving rural and interior areas as well as senior citizens who are more comfortable with meeting the candidates face to face.
On-the-ground campaigning is also more suitable in remote places where people have limited access to Internet services and gadgets.
Universiti Putra Malaysia sociopolitical analyst Dr Syed Agil Alsagoff said that although some young voters are influenced by the choices of their parents and people close to them, social media still plays a dominant role in shaping their opinions.
Self-confessed fence-sitter Abdul Halim Abdul Rahman, 38, said both conventional and social media campaigns will be important in helping him make a decision on which candidate to vote for.
“For people like me who are not aligned to any political party, physical campaigning like ceramah and community programmes will help us be more confident when the time comes for us to make a choice.
“Social media, on the other hand, is a faster and simpler way for me to get more information about candidates and their parties,” he said.
Housewife Norazizi Abdullah, 57, said she found physical campaigning more appealing as it allowed her to get to know the personality of a candidate better, as well as experience the excitement of an election.