Malaysia is in a precarious situation and we Malaysians are sitting on edge. The events of the past few days have left us in a total state of flux. Emotions are running high on all sides of the political divide.
But the reality is that when we attempt to move away from one entrenched belief structure, the resistance will be phenomenal. And, the transition process is going to be a painful one, as we are witnessing as a nation at this time.
Here is our current reality. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, which as yet has not surfaced, the general elections were free of interference. So, the ‘hung’ Parliament is the result of the will of the people.
“The government you elect is the government you deserve” was supposedly said by Thomas Jefferson. This statement is so true for Malaysia right now.
Of course, this is all part of that transition. But where we are transitioning to isn’t clear yet.
The number crunchers are working out the demographics, voting patterns, the urban, rural, and racial profiling of the votes. There is no doubt that various theories will emerge soon enough. Political scientists and spin doctors will flood every media with their own unique postulations.
But instead of succumbing to doomsday naysayers, let’s assess the situation as it is.
We must start by leaving aside the chicanery of our politicians, from all the coalitions.
The democracy we live in is dreadfully messy. Fear and paranoia have been systematically bred over the years. People say platitudes about how only the politicians are dividing us but ordinary folks are all living together harmoniously.
Yet the racial divide in GE15 is so very obvious. The seismic shift from Barisan Nasional (BN) to Perikatan Nasional (PN) is crystal clear for all to see.
The “rakyat” who were fed up with corruption, primarily from BN, didn’t opt for the more moderate and inclusive Pakatan Harapan (PH). Instead, they just went down the road of more extremism. This is not conjecture, this is fact.
In Malaysia, we have engineered race relations to the point where it’s not ‘live and let live’ but rather ‘we will tolerate you people if you know your place in the scheme of things’.
Even when a more inclusive coalition, like PH, is on offer, the majority of shifting voters still chose the politicians who are narrow-minded, and are race or religion motivated. This includes newer and younger voters. The polarisation has started even with youth.
What does this actually say about race-relations in Malaysia?
The Westminster style ‘First Past The Post’ system we use, is an archaic and outdated method. Yet, there is no political will to implement any form of proportional representation.
In two-cornered fights in a constituency, all a candidate needs, is a simple 51% of the votes to be elected. If there are three or more candidates in a constituency, the percentage needed, drops even further.
For example, if 51% of votes in a given constituency with only two candidates, goes to a religious preacher candidate, the 49% of voters who didn’t choose this person will feel like their views are not being represented at all. And, vice versa.
The system itself is flawed and not ‘fit for purpose’ in a multi-ethnic nation like Malaysia. In this system of representation, the voice of the minority is always thoroughly drowned out.
Can we then claim that we have a ‘fair’ electoral system?
The gerrymandering or manipulation of electoral constituency boundaries to favour one group of people, or one party, is shocking. For example, the Damansara constituency has 239,103 registered voters while the Putrajaya constituency has 42,012 voters.
How do we rationalise our democracy when one vote in Putrajaya is equal to five votes in Damansara. Does this actually make any mathematical sense or does the country value the people of Putrajaya five times more than the people of Damansara?
Older Malaysians, especially the urban-set, are complaining about the polarisation that our country is facing now. But these were the very same top civil servants, movers and shakers that sat by quietly, in the 1980s and 1990s, when the political landscape starting shifting.
Then, they were worried about their livelihoods. Now, finally, they are worrying about their children and grandchildren’s future. But isn’t this something they should have stood up against, when they were actually in positions of power?
With the impasse we are witnessing without a government, the Federal Constitution seems to be left by the wayside. Experts have explained ‘ad-nauseam’ that the first bite of the cherry should be given to the party with the highest number of seats in Parliament. But unfortunately for Malaysia, the political trickery and bickering continues endlessly.
So, why should we continue to vote?
Regardless of the disappointment we feel right now, and not withstanding our deep pain, voting is the only way we can bring progress for ourselves and our country.
This time of transition brings with it vulnerability and unpredictability. Things are not what they used to be. And, the future is uncertain. But let us remind ourselves that it also brings the promise of something new, if we continue to stand up for what we believe in.