Of goodies and buy-elections

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We’ve seen it all these years, but that doesn’t mean that it’s kosher just because it has been done all this while, writes Mustafa K Anuar, referring to the ‘goodies’ dished out prior to elections.

We’ve seen it all these years, but that doesn’t mean that it’s kosher just because it has been done all this while. We’re talking of the ‘goodies’ the powers-that-be dish out prior to a general election or by-election.

To be sure, the goodies (at times popularly known as ‘instant mee development’) come in various shapes and sizes – depending on the kinds of constituencies that are involved.

Fertilisers, kindergartens, sarongs, sampans and suraus, for instance, are promised or are in the process of being distributed to the folks in the countryside or in the agriculture sector. And in the case of Hulu Selangor that will face a by-election soon, a Permata Negara centre is even promised by the wife of no less than the Prime Minister.

For the urban dwellers, funding allocations are given out for new school buildings, new roads, community halls, mosques and bridges, among other material things.

These are ‘sweeteners’ that are thrown to potential voters to win over their hearts and minds.

Often times, these supposedly heart-warming gestures are ephemeral in nature. It’s calculated to be that way because the primary objective is to bait the voters to the hilt and in the shortest time possible.

But there’s more to these goodies than meets the eye. In one sense, voters and human beings are treated like pawns in the political game. They are only seen to be important at that particular moment in time and for a very specific purpose.

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Indeed, throwing such goodies in this fashion robs the people concerned of their dignity especially when the purportedly concerned politicians and political parties ‘disappear’ into thin air immediately after the election to be never seen again until the next voting exercise emerges. The people in the constituency concerned deserve development projects and attention all the time – not just prior to an election.

Seen from another perspective, this is clearly a form of bribery practised by the politicians and political parties concerned, an act that should be of extreme concern to public institutions such as the Election Commission. Such acts include development promises that are made close to a political campaign period.

Such political manoeuvring only benefits politicians and political parties that have the wherewithal compared to smaller, ethical parties that are constrained by little political and economic power. And this situation certainly makes the playing field uneven.

Political bribery of this nature makes a mockery of democracy and humanity.

Mustafa K Anuar is assistant secretary of Aliran

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