Malaysian 15th general election special project
Entry type: Single project
Publishing organisation: Malaysiakini
Organisation size: Big
Publication date: 2022-02-21
Language: English, Malay, Chinese
Authors: Lee Long Hui, Ooi Choon Nam, Yan Jing Tian, Andrew Ong, Ng Xiang Yi, Syariman Badrulzaman, M Fakhrull Halim, Tan Hong Kai, Low Choon Chyuan
The project is presented by [Kini News Lab](https://newslab.malaysiakini.com) in Malaysiakini, one of the most-read news portals in Malaysia.
At Kini News Lab, we experiment with new ways of presenting news by combining visual and interactive storytelling as well as in-depth and data-driven journalism.
We aspire to turn important but complex issues into something engaging and enjoyable for the Malaysian public.
The 15th national poll in Malaysia made history by achieving the highest voter turnout ever recorded, thanks to the implementation of measures such as lowering the voting age and automatic voter registration.
The project includes four reports that cover various topics related to the election. The first report illustrates the impact of young voters by simulating previous general election results.
The second report discusses how expanding the voting base can exacerbate malapportionment.
The third report is a microsite that serves as a one-stop voting guide for first-time voters.
The final report is an election live result website.
The first report provides a detailed [electoral map](https://newslab.malaysiakini.com/undi-18/en/map) at the polling district level. Malaysiakini was the only Malaysian newsroom to publish such a map, which serves as a tool for academics and journalists to conduct geographical election analysis.
At least two media outlets, [Cityplus FM](https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=407133804460758) and [The Fourth](https://www.facebook.com/reel/1178546966390512?fs=e&s=TIeQ9V&mibextid=0NULKw), cited the malapportionment report, helping to spread the information to a wider audience.
As a result of the report, there were [calls](https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/623441) for electoral reform from NGOs and academics.
The voting guide received a lot of attention, particularly the election candidacy, result maps and the manifesto comparison. It continues to be a public resource months after the polls.
Malaysiakini was the only newsroom in the country to compare manifestos side by side.
A local university requested permission to display our content on its campus, and local publisher [Mentor Publishing](https://www.facebook.com/MentorPublishing/posts/pfbid027C8phW13ALsP967FiucFohwcju1EoAdN9tRXZUmDkLmUzbRg4jddBkTc63VFPjRUl?__cft__=AZVkHTBPEZV9SXf4mhBg_Hpje2x9EFINg4WcYEgKyTxFfGYCpSdL2FjCHsKNYEvdHJs93859599Cyxl_l0vZokhl4_H-1Hf2T9VuGpRKuP9AnQXtzVY34Gk2_rQC549grx7kc8u-5O2GyQt40Tn5jpIj_4hUS6IIShRdq-hvmbKd3URZFfI176Pj_CVLKM3mNx20e8BcusI0AvmQmAZfk87R&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R) cited our voting guide in a Facebook post.
Several researchers and content producers have praised the projects for being able to break down complex information to make it digestible. Political scientist Por Heong Hong said the manifesto comparison was a go-to resource for herself and her peers.
These three reports received high praise and accumulated close to a million page views.
The live result site consistently had 200,000 concurrent viewers throughout the tally process because it provided the fastest results and immediate analysis.
To clean and analyse the electoral data obtained from the Malaysian Election Commission, we used Google spreadsheet and Python scripts and brought on a researcher to help us better understand and interpret the data, and present the numbers and narrative in the correct context.
ArchieML allowed journalists and editors to write and edit structured text that could be rendered in interactive web pages.
To quickly publish and make calls for election results, we wrote some Python scripts to automatically scrape the official channel.
All reports were built with modern front-end web frameworks such as React with Next.js and Svelte with SvelteKit, and we prioritised a good mobile user experience as most of our readers access the sites from their smartphones.
The electoral maps data was processed with QGIS and presented with Mapbox, and Scollama.js was used for the storytelling effect on the charts.
The charts were built with the Highcharts API.
Context about the project:
Malaysia’s poor open data policy makes data less accessible, and the detailed election data and constituency map are not made public by default.
As a result, we had to purchase the data and map from the election commission at a cost of approximately US$2,800, which was a significant expense for a independently-funded newsroom like Malaysiakini.
We were only able to publish most of the reports with additional financial support from the European Union in the form of a grant from Internews Malaysia.
Although the malapportionment report shed light on the issue of unevenly distributed electoral boundaries, it did not lead to any substantial policy changes or reforms, as the next redelineation exercise is not scheduled to take place for several years.
Due to human resource constraints, Malaysiakini was only able to allocate one or two journalists-cum-developers and a designer to work on most of the reports, which resulted in a slower production pace and the need to take at least two months to complete each story.
Despite these challenges, we were the first and only newsroom in Malaysia to produce in-depth stories with the most detailed election map and data.
Additionally, we went above and beyond by presenting manifesto comparisons and visualising the relationships between different political parties in an easy-to-understand way.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
Collaborating with experts was crucial for our project. We received guidance from an academic, who helped us avoid misjudgments and prevent the reporting of misleading information.
Electoral data is one of the most important elements of our project, and in the context of Malaysia’s subpar open data policy, a key to success is trying to obtain data from the relevant government entities. For example, we were able to obtain a specific set of data from the election commission for free by simply emailing the officer in charge.
If your newsroom has limited financial resources, you may want to explore funding options. In addition to Internews Malaysia, Mapbox, a map provider company, offered to support us by granting free use of their service for a year.