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Election phobia

  • We cannot count on politicians or elections to bring about reforms. The civil society should take the lead to reinstate the functionality of checks and balances mechanism through political awareness enhancement campaigns, allowing public consensus to drive the country's reforms.

By LIM SUE GOAN
Sin Chew Daily

Many people subscribe to the belief that even after the elections, the political commotion in Malaysia will not come to a conclusion.

As such, they no longer have any expectations for GE14. Indeed, the past two general elections have proven that their concerns are not completely unsubstantiated.

In the 2008 general elections, BN only managed to win 140 out of the 222 parliamentary seats up for grabs, losing its two-thirds majority advantage for the first time since 1969.

The political climate was in utter chaos after the election. PKR's de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim put himself back in the Parliament after a lapse of ten year by creating a by-election. He also tried to rope in East Malaysian reps in a bid to unseat the BN federal government. We knew, of course, the "Sept 16 plot" didn't work in the end.

In February 2009, three Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen in Perak jumped ship, causing the state administration to fall into the hands of BN again.

Additionally, Abdullah Badawi was forced to unload his prime ministerial duties on April 2 out of pressure from within Umno, and let Najib take over the baton.

After the 2008 elections, the political fights that lasted for the following five years prompted many to pin their hopes on the next elections to bring the much needed political change, which unfortunately did not materialize. In its stead, political differences turned many long-time friends to foes.

In the 2013 elections, BN not only failed to recapture Selangor and Penang but its seats shrank further to 133. PM Najib described the lack of support from the Chinese community for BN as the "Chinese tsunami", while Utusan asked on its front page: Apa lagi Cina mahu?

A string of blackout rallies were staged by Pakatan Rakyat nationwide to protest perceived electoral irregularities. Meanwhile, MCA declared it wouldn't join the new cabinet and would close its service centers, while Umno made a decisive shift towards conservatism, halted the reform agenda and introduced bumi empowerment policy while holding out olive branch to PAS.

PAS blamed the decline in Malay votes to weak religionization, which caused the party to eventually break ranks with its Pakatan allies and hence the collapse of the opposition pact.

For the past five years, we have not only seen more and more chaos but also an apparent regression in democracy, including the inconclusive termination of investigations into the RM2.6 billion political donation issue and the 1MDB scandal, the replacement of attorney-general, the concurrent forced retirement or transfers of top MACC officials, the removal of DPM, the RUU355 and the adoption of highly controversial bills in the Parliament such as the National Security Council Act and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

A new political problem emerges with the 2018 general elections on the horizon: the integrity and reliability of our political leaders have slumped to a new low. BN continues to be plagued by the 1MDB scandal while Pakatan Harapan's prime ministerial candidate's track record is anything but desirable.

The voters are forced to pick between two rotten apples. The old Mahathir-Anwar team of 1990s is back in the big picture, and to consolidate their hold to fundamental support, moderation is slowly drifting away. We heard a good deal of racist remarks in the recent Ummah convention, as the trend of Islamization gets intensified.

With all these unpleasant experiences around, it is hard to convince Malaysian voters that they can look forward to a brighter tomorrow post-GE14.

For the past ten years, the country has been led further and further adrift by our politicians who would even exploit unhealthy electoral systems and manipulate the rules of game in order to stay in power, while our defective system basically renders our checks and balances mechanism ineffectual.

We cannot count on politicians or elections to bring about reforms. The civil society should take the lead to reinstate the functionality of checks and balances mechanism through political awareness enhancement campaigns, allowing public consensus to drive the country's reforms.

If we solely put our hopes on the upcoming elections to transform the country without putting any effort to educate the public on the essence of democracy, we will only provide an easier access for politicians to hijack and manipulate the elections and smother our fledgling democracy.

Owing to the bleak prospects of getting the right people in charge, many have opted to stay away from the polling stations. And the emergence of such election phobia is poised to deal a severe blow on our democracy.

 

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