ALSO BY

By John Malott

As expected of Bernama, Malaysiakini and the EIU

Kudos to Malaysiakini for its investigative reporting on the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) analysis of Malaysia's upcoming parliamentary elections.

In its article, Bernama claimed that "the EIU, which is part of the respected London-based magazine, The Economist, predicts that BN will win the 13th general election based on its successful track record, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's reform agenda, and his successful economic leadership."

Actually, the EIU report said no such thing.

In contrast to Bernama, Malaysiakini fulfilled its journalistic responsibility. It found the original EIU report and posted a link to it. Now everyone can read it and see that the EIU analysis was very balanced.

The most it predicted about the outcome was to say "the next election is likely to be a tight race", and that the next general election is going to be "one of the hardest-fought elections in Malaysia's history". It never (I repeat, never) predicted that BN would win.

The EIU analysis also said, "Both BN and PR will need to appeal to young, first-time voters, given that nearly three million people in this crucial voting block have been added to the electoral register since the last election. The bulk of this group is undecided about which party to vote for, and could swing the outcome of the next poll."
That is another indication that the EIU thought the race could go either way, and therefore made no prediction.

I think that most political observers in Malaysia would agree with the EIU - this is going to be a tight race, and it is too close to predict the outcome with certainty. It is worth noting that the EIU report is dated Jan 25, and that the political situation in Malaysia continues to evolve day after day. As the saying goes, "a week is a lifetime in politics."

Many people have called the Bernama report, "spin". However, once you read the original EIU report, it becomes clear that the Bernama headline and lead are more than spin - they are pure fabrication.

Malaysiakini has also discovered that the Bernama report itself was taken almost word for word from a shadowy website, whose ownership and authorship are hidden. Yet Bernama, once again fulfilling its role as a dutiful propagandist for the ruling party, never carried out its own fact-check or examined the original source.

The link that Malaysiakini provided to the EIU also allowed access to a report done a month before on Dec 28, 2012. In this earlier report, the EIU said that "a failure (by Najib) to return his BN coalition to the comfort of a two-thirds majority could see him quickly replaced as prime minister at the Umno party congress later in the year."

Combined with its comment a month later that the race is tight and that the outcome could swing either way, the EIU is basically saying it appears that a two-thirds majority is not in sight so whether BN wins or loses, Najib will soon be out of a job.

I bet you won't read that in Bernama.

In short, the EIU's balanced political and economic analysis is what we have come to expect of The Economist and its affiliates. And Bernama's distorted report is what we have come to expect of Bernama. Whereas, Malaysiakini's professional coverage of all of this is what we have come to expect of Malaysiakini. It is no wonder that a recent poll noted the website as the most popular and most trusted news source in Malaysia, by a wide margin.


JOHN R MALOTT was the US Ambassador to Malaysia, 1995-1998, and continues to follow developments in that country closely.