Social media and elections in authoritarian democracies: The cases of Malaysia and Singapore


Weiyu Zhang
Department of Communications and New Media,
National University of Singapore, Singapore



This paper tries to chart the influence of social media during the two recent general elections in Malaysia and Singapore. Against the backdrop of authoritarian governance along with popular elections, this paper utilizes mixed methods to analyze
four aspects of such impacts: First, social media are used by the oppositions as the only alternative media to disseminate information and foster dialogues. Second, social media empower the oppositional forces by serving as efficient tools to mobilize, organize, and engage active citizens. Third, social media amplify the discontent with the authorities and change the perception of opinion climate among ordinary citizens. Finally, the above-mentioned influence is particularly evident among young voters as
social media are part of their life style.


  • This paper is co-authored by Prof. Zhang Weiyu and Prof. Joanne Lim Bee Yin, Assistant Professor of School of Modern Languages and Cultures University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus.