Demand better governance in coming general election

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Graphic: csj-ng.org

We need to mobilise efforts to ask every election candidate to sign a public declaration on reforms for good governance if they want our vote, writes Wandering Malaysian.

Mt Elvira’s thoughtful piece on where Malaysia is heading led me to a realisation that our core challenge as a nation can be summarised in one word: governance.

According to the Worldwide Governance Indicators report, governance is defined broadly as “the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised”. This includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them.

The report takes a rigorous approach to measure governance based on six dimensions:

  • voice and accountability
  • political stability and absence of violence
  • government effectiveness
  • regulatory quality
  • rule of law, and
  • control of corruption.

Voice and accountability indicates the extent to which Malaysians are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and a free media.

Political stability and absence of violence/terrorism assesses the likelihood of political instability and/or politically motivated violence, including terrorism.

Government effectiveness evaluates the quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies.

Regulatory quality measures the ability of the government to formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development.

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Rule of law determines the extent to which we have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, property rights, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence.

Control of corruption evaluates the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as “capture” of the state by elites and private interests.

It will come as no surprise that Malaysia’s performance on all six dimensions is declining, and poor governance has emerged as the single biggest threat to our economic and social wellbeing.

The coming general election provides an opportunity to hold all incumbent and aspiring political leaders of all stripes to task on each of these dimensions of governance.

We need to reach out to especially young and first-time voters to educate them on their right to demand change:

  • repeal laws that inhibit voice and accountability;
  • reject candidates who preach hate, divisiveness and bigotry under the guise of religion and race;
  • demand reform of the civil service and release it from Umno’s suffocating stranglehold; and
  • fight the insidious disease of corruption in both the public and private sectors.

We need to mobilise efforts to ask each and every candidate for state and federal seats to sign a public declaration on reforms for good governance if they want our vote.

Wandering Malaysian is the pseudonym of an avid Aliran reader.

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