Friday, February 15, 2008
posted by PabloPabla at 4:23 pm

If you have registered yourself as a voter, will you be exercising your rights to vote come this 8th March as the citizens of Malaysia determine the government for the next 5 years? If you are, I am glad that you are doing what you are expected to do. This expectation, in my own interpretation, is from all other Malaysians. It is an expectation that each eligible voter exercise his right to vote so that the choice government would be formed. I am not a politician and neither have I studied politics. It brings me dismay everytime an eligible voter remarks "Politics is not for me" or "So what? My one vote counts for nothing" or "I can't be bothered as I am too busy". I think they don't realise that their failure to vote can manifest great consequences when combined with the others who also fail to vote.

In a General Election (GE), voters will be voting for a Member of Parliament (Parliament seat) and / or a State Assemblyman (State seat). The former sits in Dewan Rakyat. The latter sits in the State Assembly. The Dewan Rakyat (also known as Parliament) makes policy decisions for the nation. The State Assembly makes certain policy and admin decisions for the State (eg. Penang, Perak, Selangor etc).

The Dewan Rakyat is made up of 222 representatives elected through this GE process. The formulate policies, debate and pass these policies which governs and manages the Country. A political party which garners a simple majority (112 seats) will form the Government of Malaysia. It is presently the BN as they have 199 out of the 222 seats. With such an overwhelming majority (which is more than 2/3), policies and Bills drafted by BN are almost certain of being passed through the Parliament as there is insufficient Opposition members to veto even if there are great cause of concern with the contents of some of these Bills. These Bills (which requires 2/3 majority to be passed), once passed, will go to the Dewan Negara (with Senators sitting) for approval before finally going for the Royal Assent before becoming law.

I personally feel that a healthy democracy is one where the government of the day has less than 2/3 majority in Parliament (also known as the Legislature) for the simple fact that once the government has 2/3 majority, it could bulldoze its way to passing any new laws or amend existing laws with minimal dissenting voices. Putting it very simply, each vote that determines who sits in Parliament can have a bearing on how easy or hard it will be for new laws to be enacted or existing laws to be amended. We should also bear in mind that individual MPs belonging to a certain party do not usually criticise the Bills supported by his or her own party. Eg. BN MP will rarely criticise a proposed Bill which is tabled in Parliament though his conscience may prick him. This is due to what is known as an internal disciplinarian feature which requires their members to "toe the line".

The danger of having a single coalition party governing the country and having 2/3 majority in Parliament for the past 50 years is that policies drafted and approved by them may not be for the best interest of the nation. In all the years of ruling this country, the BN has never garnered more than 65% of popular votes. At the last GE in 2004, BN secured 91% of seats in Parliament even though it only garnered 64% of popular votes. In other words, the 199 BN MPs are only supported by 64 out of every 100 voters whilst the 36 voters are only represented by the 23 opposition MPs. This British Westminster model can grossly misrepresent the people's choice of representative as shown above.

Whatever laws that govern this land called Malaysia has always been approved by representatives who have less than 65% popular votes. More often than not, the voice of the minority 35% (which is not at all a small minority) are brushed aside as the might of the 2/3 majority forces its way through with whatever laws it create. There are enough laws today which suppresses the rights of many and have hints of possible abuse of power by the government. The Internal Security Act 1960 is one clear example. Without an effective dissenting voice, there is little room for checks and balance on the policies implemented by the government. Checks and balance are important to ensure that the country is governed and administered effectively and resources are put to optimum use. For example, how much money should be spent on infrastructure and how much on defence. How much on aid for the poor and how much on subsidies.

No one can run away from politics - no matter how far they think their lives are detached from these politicians who are sitting up there in Parliament. That single vote from you could be a turning point that decides who represents the constituency in the Parliament or State Assembly (a couple of seats were won by less than 50 votes the last time around). If it is not that dramatic, winning by a small majority should rightfully spur the winner to work harder to get a bigger majority the next time around (which should benefit the constituents) and the loser would work doubly hard to wrest the seat the next time around. Hence, every vote counts - no matter how inconsequential you think. I am pretty sure the politicians use the number of votes they garner as a yardstick.

Many Malaysians have been brought up to think that politics is something separated from their day to day lives and that it revolves around politicians. The reality is that it is so close that it affects their daily lives. From the price of toll to the price of essential goods to the building and upgrading of the school and hospital next door. Have you woken up from political slumber and tidak-apaness and will you be exercising your right to vote?



At 5:30 pm, Blogger bongkersz

"The reality is that it is so close that it affects their daily lives."

How true! Just hope more Malaysians aware of that and stop saying politics have nothing to do with their lives. Every single decision by the government will affect the rakyat, and yet I am appalled why many Malaysian still think politics is irrelevant to them.


At 1:09 pm, Blogger PabloPabla

Some, after reading this post, will still think it is irrelevant...


At 5:07 pm, Anonymous Adino

Thanks Pablo for writing this. This does clear up some questions for me, since this is going to be my first time voting!