Starting in the mid 1990s, major opposition parties in Malaysia and Singapore begun to establish an online presence. In both countries, websites and other online platforms were setup as part of the opposition parties’ strategy to overcome “bias” and negative reporting in the local mainstream media and to have direct communication with voters. Since 1995, Singapore has held general elections in 1997, 2001 and 2006 while Malaysia has had its elections in 1999, 2004 and 2008. The impact of the internet in these elections over the last decade has been mixed. In Singapore, the last elections saw a drop in the ruling party’s percentage share of the votes, but it did not translate to an increase in opposition numbers in parliament. Similarly the last elections in Malaysia also saw the ruling regime’s vote share drop enabling the opposition parties to win more seats in parliament even if they did not win the overall elections. The success of the opposition in these last elections has prompted the ruling parties to undertake policy responses that are aimed at reducing the impact of opposition parties online presence during general elections.
This paper argues that while in Singapore the preferred method is to use direct legislation and in Malaysia indirect legislation, in both countries, the ruling parties' strategy is to instead focus on the online political offensive. The aim is to mitigate the impact of online opposition in next general elections which need to be held by 2012 and 2013 in Singapore and Malaysia respectively