Well, the elections finally has a date. The Election Commission has fixed the date for the 2008 General Election on March 8. Just in time for me to vote as I'll be gone from 18 February to 2nd March. I'll be in Johor Baru and Kuantan shooting during the two weeks.
I'm dreading the poster wars that will start on polling day on 28 February. All the posters hanging from every corner is such an eyesore. I wish the local councils would designate places that the political parties can put their posters and leave other areas clear of it.
I remember in the last election Barisan Nasional hung a huge flag right outside my house and it didn't go down for a month. It took a few phone calls complaining to them before their came to take it down.
The Star has given their election coverage a title, "Malaysia Decides 2008" while The New Straits Times is calling it quite simply "Election 2008". Utusan's title is quite long, "Laporan Khas Menjelang Pilihan Raya".
The election is something all the press has been planning for months now. Like the political parties, the press probably had their own preparations well rehearsed.
Political parties are vying for votes during an election while the press are vying for attention. The election in a way is a popularity contest for both political parties and the press. For the press, it's one of the rare few times where everyone gives the same coverage for the same event. So far TV3 has always come out tops in a 'same event' ratings war.
In the US, National Television networks like CBS, NBC and FOX look forward to the rating wars during the election. It's a time when they put the credibility of their news team to the test. The one with the widest and most interesting coverage will get the highest ratings. For the local TV stations, it would be a test of their national coverage.
With TV3, NTV7, TV9 and 8TV sharing the same news resources this year, it would be interesting to see their news coverage. There would be economy of scales in terms of the back office operations. I can forsee that they can share the same operation rooms outside of the Klang Valley. I just hope they have their own editorial angle.
This year for the TV stations, the battle will be between 3 forces. The 'federation' of Media Prima (with TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9) against ASTRO and RTM. TV3 would most probably lead the pack in the Media Prima federation. I don't have ASTRO at home so I can't really watch how they cover the election but I do expect quality discussions coming out of their studios. RTM's mandarin news is quite good too. I think it would be a strong fight between their mandarin news and 8TV's mandarin news.
It would also be interesting to see how much access the opposition party has to the mainstream press this year. They have already proven they could use the alternative means like blogs very well. However, the internet is still mostly accessable to the urban voters only.The coming elections here will be a gauge of press freedom in Malaysia and the news quality of all the press (whether local or foreign).
I forsee this would be a tough year for BN trying to convince the urban voters. Places like Petaling Jaya, Ipoh and Penang will be a tough fight. Crime and inflation will be high on their mind.I myself would be voting in Petaling Jaya Utara and I await to see what are the issues they would be bringing up. All the dirt, insults and wrong doing from the last 4 years would be dredged up. It's the time of reckoning.
The drums of propaganda are beating, The troops are keen, soon the battle lines will be joined.
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war...