We are five days away from polling day. Five days away from a chance to vote in our next government.
It is an important choice for all of us.
This time around, as the country goes to the polls we are seeing:
- 39 parties contesting in the general election
- Six coalitions contesting: Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan, Gerakan Tanah Air, Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah
- 945 candidates (of which 108 are independents) vying for 222 parliamentary seats
- 434 candidates vying for 117 state seats (Perak, Perlis, Pahang and Bugaya in Sabah)
- Only nine straight fights in the contests for parliamentary seats. The rest are multi-cornered fights ranging from three to 10 candidates per seat!
- Fewer than 14% of all candidates contesting (for parliamentary and state seats) are women
The paltry number of women candidates shows us exactly what political parties think of women’s involvement in political decision-making. It is even more insulting considering women represent 50.2% of the voters in Malaysia in the upcoming general election. Please do take the candidates to task when they come around asking for your vote!
In the 2018 general election, about 82% of eligible persons or 14.9 million Malaysians had registered themselves to vote.
Now, thanks to Undi 18 (the lowering of the minimum voting age from 21 to 18) and automatic voter registration, 21.1 million Malaysians are eligible to vote. Almost 1.4 million of them are aged between 18 and 20.
For a strong voter turnout, let’s encourage everyone to come out and vote.
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Choice of candidates
Close to a thousand candidates are vying for the 222 parliamentary seats in this general election.
But are we less than enthusiastic about the choice of candidates? Cynical about manifestos from coalitions that do not have a track record of putting people before profits?
Agreed and understood. Things are far from perfect. In some seats, the choice of candidates defied logic. Some decent candidates have been shunted aside.
Instead, we are seeing some candidates, old and new, who do not think accountability is important. Some of them have a dodgy past and are slippery in their answers. Some say stupid things which have no place in a multi-racial country or which are simply illogical.
Fielding such candidates is an insult to the public’s intelligence. This is one reason for apparent voter apathy. Some voters are disillusioned over past events or perhaps uninterested or reluctant to vote despite having the right to do so. ‘Parti Aku Malas Undi‘ comes to mind.
People, of course, have the right to abstain. It is their choice. But remember, voter apathy will reduce voter turnout, and a lower voter turnout will affect the election outcome.
So that is why we need to consider carefully why we should vote. As the saying goes, you can’t be neutral on a moving train. A choice to do nothing is also a choice that will have consequences.
Look at the candidates and their principles
So, what can we do? How do we choose who to vote for?
In the Reclaim the Nation: People’s Agenda, Aliran and five co-sponsoring NGOs, along with over 50 other groups, have called on all Malaysians to come out and vote for candidates of integrity who will adhere to five basic principles.
Vote for candidates who will:
- 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
Before deciding to vote, ask ourselves whether the candidate is really committed to nation-building and recovery.
Does he or she have an understanding of who the vulnerable are in our society and what should be done to address such issues?
Has the candidate acted with integrity in their constituencies and in parliament or in the state assembly?
Keep the possibility of reform alive
In the upcoming election, the integrity of the candidates is not the only criterion.
The numbers mentioned at the beginning of this piece indicate how confusing this election is. Already, many voters are baffled by the sheer number of candidates, parties and coalitions. Many are also dismayed by the mess of self-interested negotiations, compromises, betrayals and re-alignments.
Yet we cannot abandon our journey for reform; we still have to think about the big picture and the future.
It is about putting our vote behind the candidate or the coalition we think has at least some chance of delivering the kind of reforms needed for our country.
We voted for reform in 2018 and were disappointed shortly after by the turn of events. But we still need to continue to vote for reform.
It may seem a long shot, but we need to think about whether we are giving the future people of Malaysia the best chance, or whether we are going to stick to the status quo and allow the old corrupt politics and politicians to re-assert their power.
Remember, no fight for reform is won in a single election. As the saying goes, fall down seven times, get up eight.
So right now, this general election presents us with another opportunity to fight for reform. We have a chance to have our voices heard through the ballot box.
Let’s also not forget we have to monitor and continue to advocate for the reforms we want in the country, even after the general election.
The journey ahead will be bumpy, so brace ourselves. As we head to our polling centres, think about the Malaysia we want to live in and grow old in. Think about the Malaysia we want for our children and their children.
Have faith that things can change for the better – but only with our support.
Our vote matters. Our country’s future depends on it.
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
14 November 2022