It might seem like just another vote, but never underestimate the power of your ballot to change the political landscape, Carol Yong writes.
No, I am not astounded by the Sabah snap polls.
Since the collapse of the federal Pakatan Harapan in February-March, it is clear the Barisan Nasional-Umno grand scheme to overthrow PH-led or aligned state governments has been brewing for quite some time. They succeeded in Perak, Johor and Kedah. Which state next?
The Sabah coup attempt had seemed most plausible amid reported alleged unabated bribery, or shall I say, attempts to win over some of Sabah’s greatest ‘YBs’ (‘Yang Ber-hopping), in the hope of toppling the Warisan-led Sabah state government. The full acquittal in June of Musa Aman, the former Chief Minister from 46 corruption and money-laundering charges has provided him with the gumption to validate his claim that he is the “perfect choice” to take over the state.
Like in some political thriller, the drama and intrigue overflowed. The Warisan leadership pulled the carpet from under Musa’s feet by convincing the Governor to dissolve the Sabah State Assembly and ensure that fresh state elections are held within 60 days. Musa, armed with his 33 statutory declarations, had hoped that those declarations would have been enough for him to be sworn in as the chief minister. But his attempt failed miserably.
To vote or not to vote?
Many suffragettes in the early 20th Century risked their homes, their families, their jobs, and even their lives to secure women’s right to vote in public elections, as did the civil rights movement for adult franchise or universal suffrage – the right of people to be eligible to vote, without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, class, education, social and economic status, religion or gender. Only a minimum age for eligibility to vote would apply.
Eventually, in theory if not practice, eligible citizens can exercise their right to participate in the democratic process, holding the power to decide whom they want as their lawmakers.
Casting a vote takes as little as a few minutes to several hours, depending on where one live and votes, but it will have an impact for years to come.
In Malaysia, we see the federal and various state governments, and those we elected from all parties of the political divide support policies and issues that are seldom in the public interests. They neglect to uphold social and gender justice, human rights and fundamental freedoms which we hold so dear. Except for a rare few, most of them appear to be protecting the vested interests of the elite.
It is not because many people do not understand how the voting system works, but because our electoral system has become more and more absurd. As an experienced polling and counting agent for Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) in the past, I can vouch that there were a lot of discrepancies to which the then Election Commission turned a blind eye, dismissed or failed to act upon, especially complaints lodged by non BN-Umno parties.
Also, the rakyat have repeatedly been betrayed by the political turmoil and power struggle of the few political elites, as seen in recent events. Increasingly, we see rich politicians enticing greedy lawmakers in their attempts to take over power, making a mockery of the electoral process. How have the politicians become so wealthy in the first place, is an important question to ask.
Reclaim the voting power of the people
We know from many past elections that many voters in Sarawak, Sabah and the peninsula in rural, remote and interior areas, as well as the elderly and the physically challenged were dependent on external help – generally from the government machinery – to bring them to cast their votes, and many of the ballots apparently ended up as “a win” for BN-Umno and their counterparts in east Malaysia.
Yet, a majority of the voters concerned about voting are using their own resources (money and time) to cast that vote. Over time, many of the voters – the young people, in particular – have become well-informed voters who care about the crucial issues plaguing our country in deciding whether to support or oppose each candidate.
What is the real value of a vote? It may be only one of millions, but there is more power in it than we can imagine.
The reality is every ballot – in which the voter chooses which candidate and coalition of parties should rule the state or country for the next five (sic) years – is added up, and these ballots can be crucial in deciding the overall election outcome.
And it is just as important for the election system and process to remain democratic – before, during and after the elections. Reforms, of course, will be necessary.
It is we, as voters, who hold the power to decide who will lead our nation and the respective states and communities into the future. We may feel fed up or tired of having to vote again and again before we succeed in forcing the government to listen to what we have to say. But together with like-minded voters, and with valuable lessons learned from history, we can perhaps regain that force that will lead to genuine change in the future
The early suffragettes risked all they had, and many suffered, fought and died for the fight for equality and the right to vote in public elections. Their efforts signal to us it is essential for to safeguard our right to vote.
Your vote is most valuable. Don’t be disheartened, and use it vote wisely.
Carol Yong is an activist and independent writer