John Fong ponders over what kind of message voters were sending out in the recent by-election.
After the 2018 general election, Pakatan Harapan has been noticeably losing traction in gaining the people’s trust as seen in multiple by-elections over the last one-and-half-years.
The PH coalition has already lost four out of nine by-elections held: that is a win rate of just 55.6%. The Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election in Johor was one of the most devastating blows for the PH coalition government: the Barisan Nasional candidate won with a majority of more than 15,000 votes.
Many could easily say that PH could not retain the seat because of its various failures: failure to deliver its promises, failure to lower the cost of living, failure to ensure racial harmony, failure to allocate funds for quality education, failure to have proper direction and finally, failure to be competent in much of what it does.
Many voted for the previous regime in the recent by-election as a sign of protest and dissatisfaction towards PH governance rather than actual support for the winning BN candidate, who had a competent track record.
To achieve such an emphatic outcome, voters would simply have to ignore every human value and moral and ethical approach to express their dissatisfaction in the ballot.
The parties that previously indulged in corruption, embezzlement, kleptocracy, withholding or bending of the truth, exploitation of the weak and erosion of the rule of law for their own advantage seemed to be the very ones voters turned to as a sign of protest or search for an alternative.
People and philosophers might call it a necessary evil. But was it necessary for us to accept and normalise the past behaviour of such parties in society? Have we thought of the consequences of voting this way?
What kind of message are we sending to the future generation or even present-day schoolchildren? Do we tell them it is okay to support parties that had been tainted in the past? Do we tell them it is okay to siphon money from your donation card for personal use; it is okay to bully others for personal satisfaction and it is okay to cheat in exams as long as you don’t fail or get caught?
Success and failure have redefined themselves in this postmodern age. It seems like being a failure in society now gains little respect. Learning from our failures is no longer an option.
There is no one to blame for this situation, given that society has become more competitive than ever before and being successful is deemed essential. If parties can achieve success despite their tainted track record or questionable practices, society’s response seems to be “why not?”
Is this what we really want?
John Fong is studying for a master’s degree in social science (research) at a local university.