By John Fong
Perhaps it is time for us to celebrate smaller victories and to focus on the more immediate picture, rather than the grander but further ones.
The results of the recent elections in six states – Kedah, Penang, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Kelantan and Terengganu – have shown us something important. If Pakatan Harapan focuses solely on winning and adopts an overly conservative approach to attract more conservative voters, it risks losing more seats.
With PH maintaining a two-thirds majority in two states and securing a simple majority in Selangor, this is more than what its supporters could have hoped for. The coalition should make the best of what it has achieved.
Let’s take a look at reality. Since 2018 and 2020, the world has changed dramatically. All over the world, people appear to have become more divisive, ignorant, greedy, self-serving and impatient – fuelled by platforms like Facebook, TikTok and X (Twitter).
However, the biggest elephant in the room is divisiveness. It has become an ongoing trend, whether you are in a developed or a developing nation.
Politics can no longer only be divided into left and right-wing ideologies. In some cases, it can be an arena where people rally behind racial or religious beliefs.
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Many people refuse to be caught within this whirlwind of political activity and so they may remain unaffected.
But many in Malaysia are more and more inclined to fall into either of two groups divided by religion, because of the recent surge in the “green wave”. Hence, our politics appears to be led by extremist Muslims on one side and the ‘liberals’ on the other, who are more likely to be non-Muslims.
Ibrahim Suffian of the Merdeka Centre even said that the so-called “green wave” is not just about identity politics but an expression of economic anxiety.
The same sentiment is probably felt among many ethnic minority voters. Their desires and anxieties are straightforward. They want to continue with their lives and be aligned with parties that will allow them to carry out their usual duties. They dislike the constant interference and bickering that may affect their lives and economic opportunities.
The majority of the ethnic minorities are not wealthy. The big tycoons and the capitalists do not represent them. Nor do they even care about the common people and their daily challenges.
The youth too are challenged, but they are in a different cohort altogether. They have little hope and opportunities for economic advancement, especially since Covid. Life is no longer like it was in the past, when they could easily own affordable housing and work in decent jobs without proper tertiary education.
Unfortunately, issues such as inclusiveness, universal design and even climate change – which should resonate with the youth – are no longer primary concerns for many of them.
Perhaps this attitude is understandable for a small developing country like Malaysia, which has many immediate physical challenges to tackle.
Muda and the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) discussed these issues. But they failed to resonate with the public simply because such issues are not what the public needs or sees – at least for now.
Critics and political scientists have discussed the growing strength of Perikatan Nasional. They have talked about how Umno is falling behind, and how PH might now lean to the right to regain conservative voters lost to PN.
Let’s shut out these voices for a moment. Consider that this period might be an opportunity for the “unity government” to last for a full term and even implement several institutional reforms as a bonus.
This could provide the stability we have longed for, with long-term economic benefits to follow. It might not matter much which party will form the government after the next general election, as we, the voters, have already shown our preference.
Yes, we are divided, and we must accept that reality. Prof Tajuddin Rasdi said that extremism is easy to sell and hard to eject from one’s mindset.
The same goes for conservatism. Rigidity often accompanies such ideologies. It might be here to stay, and we cannot just change people externally.
Politicians are like business people, selling ever-changing ideas to the people, because their status and reputations depend on the relevance of these ideas.
Real maturity lies in recognising that we, the people of Malaysia, are divided – yet united. We must somehow learn to deal with the intolerance for now and make things right again.
The key insight from these state elections is that those driven by divisiveness, ignorance and greed do not value the smaller victories. They crave all the power, and they want it immediately – because time is running out for their ageing leadership. There are no big winners or losers in this election.
Let us learn to appreciate the smaller moments and victories in both these elections and in our lives. By doing so, we set ourselves apart to show how we differ from those who crave divisiveness and preach intolerance.
Let’s take a moment from this divisive politics once in a while. Take care of ourselves, focus on our passions and hobbies, and reach out in solidarity with our surrounding communities.
John Fong is an Aliran member based in Penang