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A blogger takes office in Malaysia

Jeff Ooi joins activists and NGO workers as opposition members of parliament demanding reform.

E-lection: Blogger-turned-legislator Jeff Ooi campaigned in person – and online – last March.

Tim Chong/Reuters/Newscom

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Five years of blogging has brought Jeff Ooi a measure of notoriety. His biting posts on Malaysian politics sparked police investigations.

A pro-government newspaper sued him for libel. A prominent politician compared bloggers to monkeys in a lawless jungle.

In January, as Malaysia braced for national elections, a new banner went up on his blog ( Get a Blogger Into Parliament. Fueled by donations and manpower, Mr. Ooi easily defeated a ruling-party candidate to win a parliamentary seat on Penang Island.

The cyberspace critic turned lawmaker is part of a wave of fresh faces on Malaysia’s opposition bench after March’s upset election, many of them driven by a desire for reform. On Thursday, former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as opposition leader following a landslide by-election win that has rattled a shaky ruling coalition.

Ooi has no regrets about his career switch from IT consultant. “The keyboard is mightier than the sword.... Even a blogger can no longer tolerate the quality of governance that the country is having now,” he says.

Other first-time opposition members in the 222-seat parliament include human rights activists, professors, nongovernmental organization workers, and an entrepreneur who secretly videotaped a lawyer allegedly brokering judgeships. His tape triggered an outcry last year and an official inquiry into judicial corruption.

Many of the newcomers are relatively young, underscoring a generational shift in politics here after decades of leadership by an entrenched elite. One in three MPs in the Democratic Action Party, a coalition partner of Mr. Anwar, is under 40. By contrast, the youngest divisional chief in the ruling United Malays National Organization is 43, says Liew Chin Tong, a DAP lawmaker.


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