From FreeMalaysiaToday, July 13 2011 (

Preliminary statistics indicate that the movement has fired up those who normally don’t discuss politics.

PETALING JAYA: Some may complain that politicians have hijacked Bersih’s agenda, but Twitter activity indicates that the movement has plenty of support from those Malaysians who normally do not show interest in politics.

According to preliminary statistics, tweets promoting Bersih’s July 9 rally were plentiful even before the issue heated up with the slew of arrests aimed at derailing the programme.

Politweet, a research organization that studies Twitter interactions between ordinary citizens and politicians, says Malaysian users are generally not politically inclined but are fired up by Bersih.

“Bersih has an appeal to even non-political people,” Politweet founder Ahmed Kamal Nava told FMT.

“Users who had never tweeted about a YB before were bothering to tweet about Bersih. On a daily basis, the heaviest promoters of Bersih were people not politically affiliated.

“Even in the run-up to July 9, Pakatan politicians were not heavily promoting Bersih, except Elizabeth Wong. It was only after the arrests started that politicians began to actively promote Bersih on Twitter.”

Politweet has been tracking Malaysian Twitter user behaviour since 2009 and has traced trends on by-elections, the Sarawak state election, the 1Malaysia project and other political developments.

Ahmed also said that the number of RTs (retweets) on Bersih surpassed the average by “a large margin”.

According to him, a tweet may be re-tweeted 50 times on average. However, preliminary statistics reveal that #bersih retweets are dramatically more frequent.

The most retweeted message is to encourage people to add the Bersih badge to their tweeter profile pictures. “Support Bersih:  add a #PicBage to your image” has been retweeted at least 679 times in recent weeks.

Other messages extensively re-tweeted were reactions to police action before and during the rally.

One message that was retweeted 283 times was “RT @xandriaooi: Dear polis, I don’t think the folks rallying are out to cause trouble. If they wanted 2 fight, they won’t set a date & tell u abt it. #bersih.”

Other favourites include “RT @radins: #bersih mass arrests by police at KLSentral. Commuters within profile of Bersih supporters picked up upon alighting from trains. Pls RT” and “RT @NatAsasi:  If one baby from Tung Shin hospital is harmed, #NajibResign IMMEDIATELY! #bersih.”

Ahmed acknowledged that it was difficult to gauge opinions for or against the rally, but added:

“I can say that a minority of tweets were negative.

“But the positive outnumber the negative by a large margin. I suggest reading the #bersihstories to gauge people’s response.” He was referring to an outlet for people to share stories about the Saturday rally.

“But it is correct to say that Malaysians on Twitter were more interested in the Bersih rally than in 1Malaysia, by-elections since 2010, RON97 and the ‘No to Mega Tower’ online protest,” he added.

About 19,000 people had made 85,000 tweets about Bersih by July 9 and Bersih 2.0′s Twitter account garnered 16,000 followers in one month.

Ahmed said Bersih’s account had 386 followers before its first tweet. The number grew steadily and has continued to grow since the rally.

He also noted that Twitter users had started to use “#bersih” as a term referring to groups of multiracial Malaysians, the way they used to say “very 1Malaysia” or “very muhibbah”.

Published On: July 17th, 2011 / Categories: News Coverage / Tags: , /