What Malaysia’s opposition parties can learn from youthful winners in Hong Kong polls

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Eddie Chu - Photograph: Cloud

Malaysian opposition parties should field more fresh, young faces in GE14, says Turtle Shell, in the light of the outcome of the Hong Kong elections.

In the legislative council elections in Hong Kong, Eddie Chu, an independent, became the candidate who won with the highest number of votes in geographical constituencies..

An environmentalist aiming to protect Hong Kong’s rural areas, he did not print new street promotion banners. Instead, he collected old ones and recycled them with handwritten slogans. He also conducted some of his campaign on a bicycle.

Running a campaign without resources, he turned to online crowdfunding. He raised HK$800,000.

His win is inspirational. It shows that it is not a given that only candidates with big party backing and resources can win in elections.

That said, Eddie was no parachute candidate. He has been a well-known figure helping rural folks against Big Brother, in whatever form.

The DAP has used online resources to raise funds as well. Perhaps Amanah, as the new kid on the block, can learn from it how to overcome any financial deficit. Many of us who have fond memories of Tok Guru Nik Aziz and the Pas he represented then would be only too willing to chip in to help Amanah get on a good footing ahead of GE14.

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So do away with (or only use minimally) the big flags and buntings that have been commonplace in our general elections. In its place, the opposition can further save costs by putting up recycled promotional banners, updated with handwritten slogans. Yes, use recycled street promotion items as Eddie did!

Perhaps opposition party workers could start collecting old promotional street banners from now and begin the process of updating them with the election slogans of their respective parties.

Campaigning on a bicycle in the rural hinterlands would not only save costs; the personal touch would also be evident. Of course in our tropical climate, some tweaking of campaign times may be necessary to avoid the incessant mid-day heat and humidity.

Then there is Nathan Law, a student leader in the mass pro-democracy rallies duringg the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ in Hong Kong two years ago. He is now spearheading a new breed of young councillors, lobbying for more autonomy from China.

Only 23, he became the youngest member of the legislative council on merit. (He actually got the second highest votes in the Hong Kong Island geographical constituency). The Hong Kongers, it would appear, are looking for fresh ideas on how to deal with the island’s love-hate relationship with China.

Law and a number of other young activists have, in the process, kicked out some of the old guard in the council. According to the reports, it is not because these pan-democrats (not in the pro-Beijing camp) have not been performing their duties.

Perhaps Hong Kongers are looking to see what these fresh new voices can bring. By all accounts, Hong Kongers are realists: they know independence from China is a no-go, but it looks as if they are willing to explore the limits of the boundaries of what kind of autonomy China is willing to grant Hong Kong.

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In Malaysia, I think it is time the opposition fields more fresh, young faces in GE14. The ethnic composition of our country may make this trickier, but it is the job of party think-tanks to sort this out.

Lim Kit Siang has done a sterling job for the cause of the opposition throughout his political life but he can’t hold the fort forever. The two young upstarts who could have stepped into his shoes – Lim Guan Eng and Rafizi Ramli – are now facing possible jail terms.

Opposition parties must field more young activists like Adam Adli, Anis Syafiqah and Dyana Sofya. Perhaps, we will see the beginning of a new political discourse in our country that can bring us the change many of us are working for – a change to a more fair, just, democratic and civil society.

Eddie Chu raised eyebrows through his setting up of ‘repair shops’ in his constituency. Instead of opening offices to interact with his constituents, Chiu hopes these ‘repair shops’ will be places where constituents can meet to get minor items repaired. The idea is to encourage social adhesion through this process. Perhaps the opposition parties can again adopt this model to suit the Malaysian scenario.

Turtle Shell is the pseudonym of a regular reader of Aliran.

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