This is it! The general election is on and the anticipation is building up with each passing day.
Soon after Parliament was dissolved, Aliran expressed dismay that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had capitulated to pressure from certain quarters for an early general election despite the impending monsoon season.
It is common knowledge that the so-called court cluster from Umno want early polls as a way out of their legal troubles – no matter the cost to the people and the country.
The leaders of Umno – the party only has 37 or 17% of the 222 MPs – have even ignored the wishes of 12 Perikatan Nasional cabinet ministers in the Barisan Nasional-PN-plus government who did not want a general election to be held this year. The PN ministers, like many others, including opposition MPs, felt that the focus should be on the people’s welfare.
This is the first time in Malaysian history there has been such a ‘mutiny’ in the ranks of the cabinet about when to call a general election.
The Umno leaders’ push shows that their quest for even more power supersedes the wellbeing and needs of the people.
That the establishment could ignore the struggles of the people instead of focusing on how to ease their suffering shows just how selfish, inconsiderate and out of touch they are.
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Many ordinary people have been struggling to recover from the lockdowns and restrictions over the last two years, while the higher cost of living has worsened their pain.
The dissolution of Parliament so soon after the tabling of Budget 2023 raises the question of whether the promises in the Budget, which has not yet been thoroughly vetted in Parliament, will be used to lure voters.
The Budget and the perks in it are ploys to sustain the old ways. We need new dynamic and sustainable ways of taking the nation forward.
This whole drama shows us why it is so important to have a fixed-term parliament and state assemblies so that the people will not be bullied like this again.
The instability since the backdoor takeover of government in the ‘Sheraton move’ has been caused by a group of selfish politicians thinking only of their own self-interest.
In the upcoming general election, the people must restore stability by voting out the corrupt and those without integrity.
Voters will now find politicians coming around to see them to persuade them to vote for them.
But let’s not give in to their sweet-talkin’ promises so easily. Evaluate the candidates thoroughly – for after all, some of them could end up managing the country on our behalf.
Voters have a crucial task in the upcoming general election. We must vote for candidates of integrity and parties that will promote a more inclusive and sustainable nation.
To evaluate the candidates contesting in your area, study their backgrounds by checking out the MP profiling website at www.mp-profiling.info
Study the manifestos or pledges of the various political parties. Vote for parties that will support the five points in the People’s Agenda, which has been endorsed by 57 NGOs:
- Uphold the dignity and quality of life of the people
- Promote equitable, sustainable development and address the climate crisis
- Celebrate diversity and inclusivity
- Save democracy and uphold the rule of law
- Fight corruption and cronyism
In addition, another initiative, the People’s Manifesto, has come up with 10 demands directed at all the election candidates:
- Reinstate local council elections
- Separate the function of the public prosecutor from that of the attorney general
- Empower a parliamentary select committee to scrutinise the appointments of the MACC and Election Commission chiefs
- Set up an independent police complaints and misconduct commission
- Enact a right to information law and abolish laws that suppress freedom of expression
- Ensure quality education, focus on raising teachers’ professionalism, increase accountability and promote inclusive education
- Prioritise health by raising the health ministry’s budget so that it exceeds 4% of gross domestic product (GDP) within five years [At present it is only around 2%]
- Support a Social Inclusion Act and progressively transform to needs-based measures
- Expand agricultural areas for food cultivation; give smallholder farmers a lease of at least 20 years
- Declare a national climate emergency and protect all forests in line with Malaysia’s commitment to the 1992 Rio Declaration
These are the key concerns put up by civil society that the political parties and candidates must address – instead of resorting to divisive racial or religious issues.
Use these key concerns as a guide when deciding who to vote for. Vote for political parties that will support the five points in the People’s Agenda and for candidates who agree to the 10 demands from the People’s Manifesto.
This election will witness millions of new voters included in the latest electoral rolls, with the implementation of automatic voter registration and the reduction of the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. Many of these first-time voters will be youths, as well as adults who had never registered as voters before.
Many new voters are likely to be apathetic, confused about the political situation, fence-sitters or those who fail to see the point of voting, given the mess that some politicians have created. Even many who had previously voted are likely to be confused about the current political situation, given the many coalitions and parties that are in the fray.
So we all have an uphill task in raising awareness, perhaps through more talks and conversations aimed at those still in the dark about the real situation.
This will be a crucial election, given the high stakes involved, and it could well determine the direction of the country for the next decade or two. We are at a crossroads: which way forward for Malaysia – towards a nation dominated by racial and religious exclusivity and riddled with corruption – or towards a more inclusive, multicultural and progressive nation?
If we take the former path, it would be a major obstacle blocking us from even debating the serious issues of the day: income, wealth and other inequalities; all kinds of discrimination; climate change and sustainable development.
But we must never underestimate our capacity to create a move inclusive nation that treasures its diversity – a society built on values such as justice, compassion, integrity, solidarity and freedom.
The task for us is to vote out the corrupt and to choose candidates of integrity, those who have the people’s wellbeing at heart, those who want to build a more inclusive nation.
Let’s vote out the corrupt and those who manipulate race and religion for political gain. Let’s work hard to usher in a more compassionate, competent and inclusive nation.
We are all in this together and together, we can make a difference!
14 October 2022