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Bedtime no hindrance as Kedah MB woo crowds on TikTok

Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor is one of a number of politicians embracing the social media platform in order to build bridges with internet users.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
2 minute read
Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor. Photo: Bernama
Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor. Photo: Bernama

It's nearly one o'clock in the morning, but the political talk is still going strong.

Questions are thrown back and forth, and the debate continues despite the late hour. 
Eventually, the speaker winds down the discussion and the audience scatters for the night. 

Not too long ago, onlookers would make their way to their vehicles and begin their journey back home. Now, though, leaving a ceramah or talk is as easy as pressing a button on a screen.

It's the digital age, and Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor is making the most of his social media platforms, especially TikTok.

Where politicians once went down to the ground, addressing physical crowds from stages, platforms, or simply the back of pickup trucks, a range of options are now available for interacting with audiences.

Nearly every night, Sanusi joins a live broadcast on TikTok hosted by users who invite him to participate.  

On this digital platform, they discuss a variety of issues – mostly current affairs, politics and the cost of living. 

Comments flow freely from critics and fans alike, who raise complaints and make suggestions, especially about issues within the state. 

And as a form of interaction, it seems to be working – each broadcast is joined by thousands of users despite their late-night nature. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, researcher Anis Anwar said comparisons should be made between the strengths of individual social media platforms. 

In Malaysia, for example, TikTok appears to be the medium of choice for many regardless of social background. 

Anis, the chief researcher at O2 Research Malaysia, said TikTok's algorithm also makes it easier for content to go viral, gaining a wider reach. 

The question, though, is how far online numbers translate into actual support among members of the public. 

For Sanusi, Anis said, his "man on the street" image would factor into his backing, especially among those in Kedah where life is different from the corporate culture seen in urban centres. 

"He wears casual clothing and speaks with a Kedah accent in order to portray himself as representative of the people on the street," Anis said. 

He nevertheless added that live broadcasts on TikTok are a different matter from state assembly meetings and Parliament sessions, the latter of which Sanusi attends as a member of the opposition bloc. 

At such meetings, he said, speakers have immunity while on social media, anyone can be sued or charged over what they say. 

"If Sanusi uses this platform to convey political views and examine government policies, he needs to be more careful about how he does it," he said. 

"It's not like official events where the basic text of the speech is already there as a guide, or the state legislative assembly where all of the preparations have been made in advance."