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  • Writer's pictureKerk Chee Yee

What makes a political force viable

[ This article refers to a news on The Malaysian Insight titled “Youth can be a political force without relying on parties, claims movement”. ]

We see an interesting phenomenon today. A handful of Malaysians (majority of whom are young) are seriously contemplating to either abstain from voting, cast spoilt vote or vote for the so-called “third force”.

Common reasonings for doing so include “there is a lack of policies in Pakatan Harapan, all they want to do is to topple the government and win power”, “isn’t Tun Dr Mahathir the one who started many of today’s problems?” and “we believe that we can make viable difference to the nation without placing reliance on political parties”.

In an election, voters usually cast their votes based on few, amongst others, considerations: 1) the competence of the candidate; 2) the political promises made by the candidate or the party that the candidate belongs to; and 3) the effect to the overall fate of the party/coalition. In the context of the coming general election of Malaysia, the 3rd point refers to whether a long-ruling government can be changed or not.

As much as the politicians on both political divide would love to tell us that the 3rd point is crucial, weights are often placed on 1st and 2nd considerations too when the time comes for a decision.

At this point in time, it seems as though for that particular group of voters, more weights are given to a 4th consideration: whether any of the party deserves their vote.

In an ideal world, when we vote a candidate into the parliament, he/she will be voicing out issues of the country (not just confined to issues of one constituency), advocate for what he / his party believes in, and serve his role in the interest of nation and people. There is relatively little effect as to which party forms the government because if the government does not perform, people will vote them out in the next election, and they are forced to improve themselves to set their foot back in the office.

However, on a scale of 1 to 10, how ideal of a world do you think we live in?

I think we have come far enough to realise what issues is our country facing today, whether economically, politically or socially. At the very least, those who want to make a viable difference without voting, must have observed something that trigger them to want to make the difference. It should not come as a surprise when I say that, while many of the problems we face to day are due to uncontrollable factors, many are actually not.

We all have heard of 1MDB scandal, we all have heard of how other countries call us kleptocracy, we have heard that 15% Malaysians skipping meals to make ends meet, we have heard of the racial politics that Barisan Nasional is playing to garner votes, we have heard of how much power is being centralised in the hand of the Prime Minister, and we have heard of how gerrymandering denied democracy and the will of 52% of the people who wanted to change government in the last election. These are problems that we are forced to face, in exchange of an oppressed democracy.

“Isn’t Tun Mahathir the one who started many of the problems we face today?” some may ask. However, did no one notice that Tun Mahathir is trying to rectify the system that is currently abused by the current government and the Prime Minister? Is that not a reason good enough for any Malaysian to start thinking for what will Malaysia become if the system continues to be abused?

What about policies of Pakatan Harapan? Last time I checked, Pakatan Harapan has made a series of manifestos on institutional and economic reforms. There are also forums, talks, articles and videos that give thorough explanations on how the reforms can be executed. Pakatan Harapan has even prepared the Alternative Budget that sets out what a sustainable and rakyat-focused budget should look like.

There will be no “one size fits all” when it comes to policy setting and Pakatan Harapan’s policies are bound to face questions from the public. In fact, before any manifesto is announced, they usually go through rounds and rounds of debate and scrutiny by the members of the coalition. If there are any doubts on the policies by the public, one channel to voice it out is by asking the politicians in the forums they organise, or simply write a message to them.

The real question is, what policies did Barisan Nasional offer that one should continue to give them more chances to rule Malaysia?

As for those who think that they will be able to make “viable difference” without needing to go through politics, they should think of the nature of the difference and the extent of the difference that can be possibly made.

Can unemployment and low wages be dealt with without political exercises? Can corruption practise be eradicated or minimised without political will from the government? Can a nation be properly developed and responsibly managed by body other than the government?

What kind of political force that is not related to political parties can bring changes that require policy change, law enactment, and institutional reforms? Even a protest with 500,000 people will hardly make a dent if the ruling parties face no pressure from being voted out.

If we want to solve the problems that many Malaysians are facing now, the first step is to vote for the coalition that commits to the cause, and more importantly, make the coalition your next government. This is the political force that is viable.

To the group who thinks that they can form a viable political force without relying on any political parties, may the force be forever with you.

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