By Phlip Rodrigues
It is decision day on 19 November. In the hallowed tradition of democracy, Malaysians will freely cast their ballots to elect a new government.
In a democracy, anyone can vote for whichever party they want and still will not go to hell.
All the candidates have made their case and now their political fate is in the hands of the voters.
There are fresh faces and there are old faces and there is even one who is almost reaching a biblical milestone. It is a mixed bag of the good, the bad, the ugly.
Voters have seen, heard, and read about the contenders for the past two weeks through newspapers, news portals and social media.
Since the weather has been unkind, many have stayed home and watched the ceramah (rallies) on television.
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Now comes the tough part: digesting and sieving through all the information to get a clear picture of the candidates.
The plethora of candidates representing diverse ideologies and platforms makes for giddy thinking.
All the political rivals have put their best foot forward in making their stand for party and country. They have laced their speeches with barbs, rib-tickling humour, innuendos, mundane utterances, soaring oratory, subtle digs, along with facial expressions that ranged from the stone-faced to the furious and the comical.
Some of these contestants are crowd-pullers, especially the heavyweights who are standard bearers of their parties. Their electrifying sound bites never fail to ignite thunderous applause.
How do you penetrate their layers and layers of public persona to see their true selves?
Politicians are good at acting. They can be wolves in sheep’s clothing, preaching peace and harmony while gripping daggers in their folds. They can become instant saints to reap public goodwill. They can transform themselves into a thousand and one things during the brief election campaign period.
But there are honest men and women too, who enter politics to serve the people. They are selfless, unblemished and unfailingly kind. They never steal public money.
It is indeed a daunting challenge to separate the wheat from the chaff. When the future of the country is at stake, people cannot take any risk with their precious votes. If they pick the wrong representatives, they will have to live with the consequences for the next five years.
But some quarters repeatedly tell voters that individuals do not matter, that parties matter the most. So, if the candidates come with a tarnished background, they say just overlook the black marks and vote for the parties they represent.
What these quarters are essentially telling voters is that even if they put up ‘donkeys’ up as candidates, just support them as long as they wear their party logos around their necks.
Finally, the destiny of the country should not be determined by firebrands, glib orators, two-faced characters or comeback oldies but by the judgement, wisdom and common sense of ordinary voters.
Phlip Rodrigues is a former journalist