Malaysia, Do You Still Believe?

Vivegavalen V Valu has 13 reasons democracy isn’t dead post-GE13.

The last 48 hours have been gruelling to say the least, what with supposed news of electoral fraud and underhanded tactics employed to win the most closely fought elections since independence –  one could almost be forgiven if an abstinence from politics is all that lingers on a weary mind. However, the message coming out thus far has been discouraging and I fear for Malaysia if her citizens are losing hope. We may have been inadvertently led to believe that there is only one chance left for change but this is not the case. I pen this letter to assure you that there is so much left to fight for, and in light of the 13th General Elections, here are 13 reasons why democracy isn’t dead; far from it, in fact:

1) On the 5th of May, the Election Commission reported that 80%of voters braved the sun and rain to leave the comforts of their home to come out and vote. It did not matter who their support went to – what mattered was the sense of responsibility instilled within Malaysians, that they needed to contribute, to speak up both for this country and its future children. This, to me, is democracy.

2)  Despite all the issues of phantom voters, “Houdini ballots”, blackouts and gerrymandering, the fact is that 51.3 % of the electorate voted for Pakatan Rakyat while 49.7% voted for the Government. The Barisan Nasional coalition knows this, you know this and I know this. The system must be changed and, in the years leading up to the election, must expect the common man to speak strongly about every policy, every decision and every contract that is made or given. 51.8% of the electoral roll is angry that they are not justly represented and are willing to sacrifice even more to contribute to this change in system. This, to me, is democracy.

3) For the second successive election, Barisan Nasionalis once more denied its two-third majority. In fact, Pakatan Rakyat has seen an increase of seven seats, giving them 89 Members of Parliament. Malaysia will not only have an incumbent under pressure but also a strong and capable Opposition who will fight for us. This, to me, is democracy.

4) The Prime Minister in the weeks leading up the 13th General Elections realised  that Malaysians no longer concern themselves with racial issues but rather on the progress of the country as a whole. This in large attributed to the fact that our country appeared to be practicing the format of a Presidential Election. The MCA and MIC banners  were almost entirelywiped out and their leaders too have admitted that the need for reform is real. The move away from racial politics is heartening and given the trend thus far, in time, will totally evaporate. This, to me, is democracy.

5) PERKASA will never again see the light of day in Parliament, for both Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin lost. The government knows now that Malaysians are united and will not tolerate racist bigots who were supposedly ‘winnable candidates’. As a citizen of a multiracial country, the drastic change in embracing a more secular approach gives me hope. This, to me, is democracy

6) In a predominantly ethnic Malay constituency, a Chinese candidate won and in a predominantly ethnic Chinese constituency, a Malay won. You only need to look at Pandan, where Rafizi Ramli thumped Gary Lim with a 26,700 majority. Malaysians understand that capability is what makes a candidate successful regardless of their race. This, to me, is democracy.

7) Incapable candidates within Pakatan Rakyat will not be shown mercy and will be purged out. There is no evidence bigger than the loss of Kedah to Barisan Nasional. The state has witnessed poor results and several cases of in-fighting and the people simply got frustrated and wanted better. This, to me, is democracy.

8) Money politics will no longer work and you cannot buy our votes – this is probably the biggest lesson for the incumbent after spending millions on handouts. The fact stands that, despite reports of electoral fraud in her constituency, Nurul Izzah won and she won against a minister known for his splurge in handouts. This will send out a deafening cry to all that transparency and justice will always prevail. This, to me, is democracy.

9) This election was also historic because for the first time, the opposition and incumbent coalitions each presented a populist manifesto with the people’s best interests at heart. Without knowing it, we have successfully demanded for issue-based elections where the focus has been on key areas such as the economy, education and cost of living instead of the usual ethnic-based agendas. This paradigm shift also comes at a time when Malaysia finds itself only seven years away from Vision 2020. The time is now and the promises made will not be so easily forgotten. This, to me, is democracy.

10) It was reported that mainstream media has taken a heavy hit in the last five years and another five years will see many crippled. This is to be expected since media and press freedom is at its worst in our country. However, the rise of our own ‘clictivists’ in various social media platforms has seen millions of Malaysians engaged and well informed prior to the elections. Alternative media is the way forward and any form of bluff can now be called within minutes. This, to me, is democracy.

11)  People Power. The common man arose to walk for a cause they believed in, Bersih or Anti-Lynas, UKM4 or even the “Walk for Freedom” campaign. We made sure our voices were heard, our angst and displeasure shared through peaceful protests with the people who could make a difference. We no longer sat back and passed the responsibility to others with indifference, but instead took control of our fate and reclaimed our country with conviction. This, to me, is democracy.

12) Put aside the criticisms of Barisan Nasional for a moment and you will realise that the party has changed albeit to an insufficient degree. As mentioned earlier, the winds of change are now knocking on their doorstep; it is up to them to embrace it or be left in its wake. The party has been given a rude awakening in a sense, in that corruption and abuse of power will no longer be tolerated but will be fought against with our votes. If the 2008 general elections was a political tsunami, 2013 is the rakyat’s final warning, to change or be changed. This, to me, is democracy.

13) Finally, the biggest positive to come out of all of this is the sense of belonging each of us has for each other and the country. I did not see Malay, Chinese or Indian on Sunday, for I only saw Malaysians. Yes, this election has been tiring and divisive at times but when the dust settles, we return to our schools and work desks, working together for the greater good with the knowledge that tomorrow will bring a renewed sense of optimism and hope for change. To me, this above all is what democracy is about.

The reasons above are only some of the truly inspiring outcomes of this election. As citizens of this blessed country, our role comprises of far more than just a simple tick at the ballot box once every five years. Noam Chomsky got it spot-on when he said that to “some degree, it matters who is in office but it matters more how much pressure they’re under from the public”. It is my humble view that citizen activism is the only way forward and the time has come for us to take matters into our hands, for after all, are they not problems which matter to us most? If memory serves me correctly, Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison – what then is one election if not the beginning?  For now however, we have sent out a clear and strong message: that we will not be silenced, and long may that continue.

The winds of change are coming - embrace them or be left in their wake. | Image provided by author.

Democracy is not dead; it is merely plagued with sickness and the cure to this sickness is all of you, the future generation of Malaysia.



A Malaysian Who Still Believes


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The writer is a born and bred Malaysian currently pursuing his LLB (Hons), a diehard Liverpool FC fan and passes his time interpreting the subtle nuances of the many voices of the planet while sipping his daily dose of teh tarik.

Posted on 7 May 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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