Elections present an opportunity and a platform to move democratisation forward and to encourage political participation.
For an election to be free and fair, certain civil liberties, such as the freedom of speech, association and assembly, must be allowed.
People must be allowed to vote freely; they must be empowered to support or to oppose the government or the opposition, without undue influence or intimidation.
Any action which may distort or inhibit the free expression of an elector’s choice is a travesty of democracy.
So, why is it important for people to vote during a country’s general election?
- Every vote counts
Some sceptics may think their vote is inconsequential. This is incorrect as the most important reason to vote is that every vote counts. Every vote is sacrosanct.
The importance of each vote was best exemplified in the 1964 general election. In that election, Dr Tan Chee Khoon from the Labour Party won the Batu parliamentary seat by a wafer-thin majority of just two votes after six recounts.
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So, if you think your vote is not important, think again, as it may make a vast difference to the outcome of an election.
- Vote to change the system
The only way you have a chance to change the system is by voting during a general election. If you exercise your constitutional right and vote with your moral conscience, then you exercise your constitutional right and duty.
In my opinion, any citizen who does not vote is not a loyal citizen of the country. In a country like Australia, voting is mandatory for all citizens. Citizens who fail to vote can be fined unless there are justified extenuating circumstances.
Whether or not your candidate is successful is a secondary issue, but if you have voted, you can be at peace with your conscience: you have done your part to bring about change that could be pivotal for your country. By voting in an election, citizens are also taking part in the country’s democratic process.
- Show which policies you support
People vote for leaders who represent their ideas and the leaders who support their interests. By voting, you express support for the choice of policies of the candidate’s party if it forms the government.
These polices cut across a broad spectrum of issues such as foreign policy, defence, economy, environment, food security, education and anti-corruption measures.
- Defend democratic credentials
By voting in an election, you are defending your country’s democratic credentials. Millions in many communist countries and totalitarian regimes are denied the right to vote. So, cherish and value this right and never take it for granted.
Just as the right to vote can be obtained, it can also be lost through unscrupulous leaders. In many countries, democratic values and norms have been compromised, undermined, abused and rigged.
- If you don’t vote, don’t complain later
If you fail to vote, your subsequent complaints about what the government is doing will sound hypocritical.
Don’t vote? Then don’t groan or moan later. Don’t complain at all! You don’t have that right like others who have voted.
If you have voted and yet ‘the other side’ comes to power and messes up the country, at least you can find comfort and solace – you can be at peace with your conscience: at least, you did your part to try to bring about change in our country.
A cardinal rule for any voter: never allow yourself to be bribed by a political party or an individual. If you accept a bribe to vote for a particular party, then you have committed a crime. and compromised on your integrity and the future of your country.
If you are God-fearing, you will commit a sin if you vote for a particular party after accepting a bribe. You will be answerable to the Almighty on the day of judgement. Always fear the Almighty before you cast your vote.
So, my advice to all God-fearing people is not to succumb to bribery at any cost in a general election, whether it is for pecuniary or other gains.
Reverse of bribery
Just as there are unscrupulous political parties and individuals involved in bribery during elections, the reverse is also a reality during an election.
Concerned individuals and NGOs often spend their own money to support a candidate who subscribes to their polices and values.
I vividly remember that in the 2018 general election, many of us worked at Invoke’s phone-in bank using our own mobile phones to contact voters in Lembah Pantai to support our candidate, Fahmi Fadzil.
Our money was well spent as Fahmi emerged the winner in our constituency, and it was also a moral victory for all our volunteers. Fahmi has turned out to be a remarkable MP for nearly four and a half years.
So come out in full force to exercise your constitutional right on 19 November. Remember, it is your sacred duty to vote.