Exactly nine years ago, Malaysia recorded one of the most notable voter turnouts it its electoral history with 8,161,039 million out of the 10,922,139 registered voters casting their ballots.
Voting centres saw long queues and big crowds at the polling centres from as early as 7am. Nobody thought that the outcome of that democratic exercise would generate a political tsunami and lead to several historic political events.
For the first time in Malaysia’s political history, the longest ruling political coalition – Umno-BN – lost their two-third majority in Parliament and lost five states to the opposition. It was also during that time when we saw a political prisoner taking the oath as chief minister of Penang. Subsequently, Pakatan Rakyat was formed.
It was a period when people got to witness long-time political adversaries, DAP and PAS, sitting at the same table and actually talking about creating a new Malaysia. Then-opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim also announced that a new government would be formed on Sept 16, 2008.
There was much excitement in the political environment. However, instead of seeing a new government in Putrajaya, we saw a new government formed in Perak.
The rest is history.
Fast forward to the most anticipated general election, May 5, 2013.
Umno-BN not only failed to recapture their two-thirds majority again but they also lost in the popular vote count. It was the second catastrophe to befall the once unbeatable political coalition.
Pakatan Rakyat is dead now. Anwar is back in his old cell in Sungai Buloh, Lim Guan Eng is counting the days before he lands behind bars again, and Rafizi Ramli also has a prison cell waiting for him.
Today, I dare say that the opposition will remain as opposition for another decade or more.
We can no longer expect another political tsunami to change the status quo. We cannot expect a high voter turnout. The people are tired. They are tired of a ‘corrupt’ regime. They are also tired of a divided opposition relentlessly bickering among themselves.
It gave us a sense of hope, but it is regrettable that it was also an episode where some personalities started to slowly show their real characters.
There is no more hope
I have talked to a lot of people. They have expressed their lack of interest in participating in the upcoming election as they do not see any hope in the opposition. I guess I have to agree. There is no more hope.
Some would compare Malaysia to Myanmar, indicating that if Myanmar was able to bring about a regime change, Malaysia would be able to do so.
But what needs to be realised is that these two countries have many things in common in terms of its electoral system and its political struggle. However, one distinct difference is Myanmar’s former opposition has one clear leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, allowing people to clearly know who they are rallying for.
But back in Malaysia, it is completely different. We have not achieved half of the victory we have been longing for. The people’s victory, having real leaders representing their interests in government, would only happen if there is a real opposition group that would emerge; an opposition with a real reform agenda, strong and unified leadership.
We can no longer rely on leaders with personal interests as their primary interest. There is no way we can save Malaysia with this kind of attitude.
GE14 is just around the corner but 4.1 million qualified voters are yet to register as voters. The majority in this number are the youths. It is unfortunate to see disenchanted youths, not willing to become a part of the electoral process as they do not see the worthiness of their participation.
We ask “Why?’ There is one simple answer from them: “Who would I vote for?”
A valid question indeed. There are no real choices: “If I vote for Umno, should I vote for an Umno-friendly party or proxy?” or “PKR which is preoccupied with their infighting?” or “DAP which are now enemies again with their former lover, PAS?” or “Amanah which is also busy fighting with their former roommate – PAS?” or “Bersatu where the president and chairperson say different things on the same issue?”
Perhaps the best solution or lesson for GE14 is to send the opposition back to before March 7, 2008 when they did not have any states, government-inked companies (GLCs), or power yet. Probably after that, they will remember how to be leaders again for a “government-in-waiting” and not just become merely an opposition.
MANDEEP SINGH KARPALL SINGH is a Bersih secretariat member. This article is his personal view and does not represent Bersih’s stand.
Source : @ Malaysiakini