By Paul Bellow
To vote or not to vote? And whom to vote for?
Voters will toss these questions in their minds on the eve of polling day for six states in the peninsula.
These are abnormal times. The state polls for Kedah, Penang, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Kelantan and Terengganu have taken on the shape of a general election. The outcome will have far-reaching repercussions.
At one time, an unbeatable coalition, Barisan Nasional, would win every election hands down. It came to a point where some people would rather stay home than cast their ballots. After all, they felt BN would surely triumph once again with more than a two-thirds majority. Moreover, Pas was not much of a threat back then.
But since the downfall of BN in 2018, the course of politics has taken a drastic change. Now, people have developed a keen awareness of the importance of political power acquired through the ballot box.
Many of the ethnic Malays appear uneasy. They have been told political power has slipped from their grip and they are on the brink of losing their cosy place under the Malaysian sun.
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The opposition coalition at the federal level, Perikatan Nasional, is at the centre of this maelstrom. The dominant PN party, Pas, has whipped up segments of the electorate to frenzied heights.
This powerful coalition has displayed alarming traits, with many lured by its siren call.
Against the onrushing dark green (Pas) and ateneo blue (PN) waves stands Pakatan Harapan, which represents the hopes of those who seek a kinder, more inclusive society.
The significance of the six state elections is obvious. For sure, PN supporters will troop out in full strength to the polling booths. For them, voting involves defending the ‘dignity’ and ‘supremacy’ of the dominant ethnic group.
Will the ethnic minorities turn out just as eagerly to cast their ballots? They might be too cynical, apathetic or tired to care about the fuss over which coalition will fight for the public interest.
But staying away from the ballot box is not be a wise move: too much is at stake. A crushing defeat for PH could spell the end of the vision for a more inclusive Malaysia. A win for PN could herald a more intolerant Malaysia.
Unity in diversity has been in the nation’s lifeblood since independence six decades ago. Any move to erase the unique identity of this multi-racial society will harm the overall health of the body politic.
The choice is clear. Vote for PN and give Pas the licence to pursue its ethno-centric and religion-fuelled policies. Or choose PH and continue the journey uninterrupted to a stable future.
Under normal circumstances, many voters will check the background of the candidates to decide whether they are fit for public duty.
But this time, given the rising tide of bigotry and religious fanaticism, what matters most are not the faces that represent the parties. Instead, voters should focus on the ideologies of the various parties and the -isms that drive them in their quest for untrammelled power.
Tomorrow, when voters open the ballot papers, they already know what PN and its ideology stand for and what it will do if it wins the six states.
Hopefully, through the power of the ballot box, all the six states will not go green and blue.
Paul Bellow is the pseudonym of a reader of Aliran