Opposition asks PM Najib to explain if Cambridge Analytica influenced Malaysia polls

Opposition asks PM Najib to explain if Cambridge Analytica influenced Malaysia polls

CA Kedah
A screenshot from CA political's website. 

KUALA LUMPUR: A member of the Malaysian opposition party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, has called on Prime Minister Najib Razak to "explain if he used Cambridge Analytica to manipulate voters" in the last general elections.

In a video secretly recorded by Britain's Channel 4, the UK political consultancy accused of using private Facebook data to manipulate the US elections said it had "used a web of shell companies to disguise their activities in elections in Mexico, Malaysia and Brazil, among various countries where they have worked to sway election outcomes", according to Reuters.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan, the deputy chairman of strategy and policy of Dr Mahathir Mohamad's party, is questioning the role CA Political, a company related to Cambridge Analytica, played in Malaysia's last general elections.

"Prime Minister Najib Razak must explain if he used Cambridge Analytica to manipulate voters in GE13 and whether he is using unethical manipulation techniques in the upcoming GE14," he said in a statement. 

"Cambridge Analytica claims on their website that they helped Najib win GE13.

"The website of CA Political, a company related to Cambridge Analytica, says they 'supported Barisan Nasional in Kedah state with a targeted messaging campaign highlighting their school improvements since 2008'," Mr Wan Saiful added.

The company's website lists offices in five locations, including Malaysia.

CA locations
This screengrab of Cambridge Analytica's website shows that the company lists offices in five locations, including Malaysia. 

Bersatu supreme council member Mukhriz Mahathir was Barisan Nasional's deputy chairman for Kedah in 2013. He went on to become the state's chief minister before he was sacked and helped form the opposition party.

"Whatever happened in Kedah in GE13, I cannot imagine the operation of this magnitude was run from (the) state level. Operations like this would normally be run from the centre," said Mr Wan Saiful, when asked if Mr Mukhriz would have been privy to any use of Cambridge Analytica's services.

"I am more worried about what Najib will do now for GE14 rather than what Kedah state did in the past. 

"That is why it is important for them to explain if they are planning the same for GE14."

Channel NewsAsia has sought a response from both Mr Mukhriz and Barisan Nasional.

Last year, local news portal Malay Mail Online reported that Cambridge Analytica's parent company, SCL Group, had denied Barisan Nasional was using its "big data" services for the coming 14th general elections.


Mr Muhyiddin Yassin, Malaysia's former deputy prime minister and Barisan Nasional's election director for the 13th general elections, said he has no knowledge of Cambridge Analytica's services being used in the 2013 polls. 

"This is the first I've heard of Cambridge Analytica," he said when asked by Channel NewsAsia about it at a news conference on Tuesday.

"Maybe Najib did," he added. "Everything he does is all on his own."

Mr Muhyiddin was dropped as Mr Najib's deputy in 2015 after criticising how the prime minister handled a scandal involving state firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

However at Tuesday's news conference, the chairman of Mr Muhyiddin's new party, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, blamed Barison Nasional's central leadership at the time for Cambridge Analytica's alleged involvement in the polls.

Channel NewsAsia had asked Dr Mahathir about his son Mukhriz's role, given that he was with Barisan Nasional Kedah at the time and was the state's chief minister. 

"What they are saying is the central leadership dealt with them," he said. "Kedah never had outside interference in the elections."

 Mr Mukhriz told Malaysiakini on Tuesday that he "never knew CA nor ever engaged them to do any work".

"If they claim to have been involved with Kedah in GE13, I was not aware of it," he said. 

“None of the strategies and tactics I employed as head of elections for Kedah Barisan Nasional during GE13 were in any way derived from advice from CA. Perhaps they were consulting with the Prime Minister’s Office or Barisan Nasional’s headquarters."

Source: CNA/zl