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Your vote is your tool of political empowerment

  • Regardless of your political ideologies or beliefs, voting is a right you are afforded as a citizen.

By Khoo Ying Hooi

As we stepped into 2018, a lot is happening, as this is an election year for the country. Malaysia’s general election will have to be held by August this year at the very latest where most analysts expect the election to be called for any time after Chinese New Year and before the Hari Raya. All eyes are watching as this year is arguably the most competitive Malaysian election in the history as we witness the battle between the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH) in which the former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad is now part of.

Every politician both the incumbent and the aspirants is aggressively campaigning since last year to win over the electorate. Ruling the country for decades, the BN suffered its worst in the last general election in 2013 when it lost not only the popular votes, it also failed to recapture the two-thirds majority in the parliament. The past few years have not been comfortable for the BN with headlines over the 1MDB allegation and the rising living costs that have putting a lot of pressures on the administration.

As everyone is gearing up for the election, there are questions to ponder. To what extent can the electorate tolerate the rising living costs and corruption allegations under the BN administration? And, to what extent the “reformed” opposition coalition can convince or persuade the electorate that they can work together for the benefits of the rakyat?

Speculations are everywhere. As a country that has been put under the same administration for decades, it is a challenge to convince electorate that change is possible. While various surveys have shown the decline of the Prime Minister Najib Razak's popularity, many still believe he can win the 2018 election. But the pressure that he faces from the young generation and those especially living in urban cities will continue to grow.

For BN, apart from riding supports based on religion, it has so far maintained itself with a very simple “promise” to the people; the country might be in chaos and uncertainty if they do not continue to support BN. Loyalty and the sentiment of nationalism are among the elements that the BN promotes to the people in order to retain power in the country. In exchange, the electorate has tolerated the restriction of certain rights and continued to support the BN.

While the US Department of Justice is still conducting its probe into 1MDB scandal, many Malaysians do not think about the matter much anymore. Recently, BN relaunched The Rakyat, the ruling coalition’s official portal for the purpose of the 14th general election. Najib justified the need to have a platform that can used to reach out to electorate and provide accurate news, as BN was the victim of false news that was spread by the opposition during the last election in 2013.

As for the alternative, referring to PH, people are skeptical with its capability due to its infighting since the jailing of former leader of opposition, Anwar Ibrahim in 2014. Mahathir being part of the PH has split the opposition into different camps, some calling for forgiving his past “wrongdoings” while some refused to recognize his leadership being in the opposition. At the same time, many analysts also opine that the deal between BN and the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) could potentially split the votes that eventually give BN more favorable conditions.

As for most of us, the ordinary people, bread-and-butter issues are topmost concerns for us. As some said, do not expect politicians to say what they mean or mean what they say in an election year. This could probably true, but it does not mean we should lose hope. Many argue that their vote really does not count. But voting is an expression of our voice. It is a civic duty. If we were to live up to the true spirit of democracy, we need to understand that it only happens when people rule and when inclusion is no longer exclusive.

Many must have remembered the moment of the last two general elections in 2008 and 2013, many of us witnessed the prospect of reforms in the country was slipping away. It has however shown one thing, people are proud to vote. Indelible ink is a dye that is applied for the purpose to prevent electoral fraud, but it has since then been a sign of pride for the voters. Regardless of your political ideologies or beliefs, voting is a right that you are afforded as a citizen. When the Election Day comes, I know I would be proud to leave my voting center with some fresh ink on my finger signaling that I just voted.

(Khoo Ying Hooi is Universiti Malaya Senior Lecturer)



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