Posted on April 6, 2012


When I get to the polling booth (Part Three)

When I get to the polling booth this coming general elections, the question among others that I will ask myself will be: How may my vote end a 55-year political monopoly and help make my country truly democratic?

There are many tenets of democracy, many characteristics of what makes a given nation democratic.

But the chief characteristic of all is that a two-party system must be in place and equal opportunity is given to both parties and not just one to vie for honours. (Two-Party System defined as “a political system consisting chiefly of two major parties, more or less equal in strength.”)

To date in Malaysia, the same party coalition has been given the people’s trust to hold the reins of their government since the country attained its independence in 1957 as Malaya, and then with the entry of Sabah and Sarawak in 1963, as Malaysia. (Other writers may not quite put it in such a nice way, saying instead that it is not so much a case of winning the people’s trust but more to do with how elections have been conducted in ways which much favoured the ruling coalition!)

This means that that particular party coalition, first in 1957, as the Alliance, and then later in 1973 as the National Front (Barisan Nasional), has ruled the country for a total of, yes, 55 years!

If that is not a political monopoly anywhere in the entire globe, I don’t know what is!

Is it fair to vote out a political party coalition just because it has been in office for 55 years? My own personal answer is a very firm YES!

EVEN SHOULD this present 55-year government be able to justifiably lay claim to be considered a good government and done well for the country, my vote will most certainly go against it!

Is it fair on the poor party coalition who has slogged for 55 long long years for God and country and people? To be unceremoniously dumped all on account of the fact that it has held the reins of government since independence in 1957. Again, my personal answer is YES! Why? In fact there are numerous seriously good answers to the question why.

For starters, a country any where in the world which has effectively a one-party system is in effect not a democracy. Regardless of what and how the country may actually call itself.

To be fair, in democratic fashion, other parties were given the opportunity to contest elections from the start but were not quite in the same league as far as budget and amenities were concerned. Even so, PAS (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia), DAP (Democratic Action Party) did well in winning parliamentary and state seats. PPP (People’s Progressive Party), in days when local government elections were held, held the Ipoh local government for quite a while. So a semblance of a “two-party” system was there from early days. The fact that at the last general elections held in 2008, the loyal opposition denied the sitting government its normal two-thirds majority in the federal parliament and itself won five out of the thirteen state-level governments, does not necessarily mean that a two-party coalition system has been effected. Again, the semblance of a two-party coalition system has indeed finally set in. The evolutionary process of a two-party system has begun but only in its infant stage. Only if the ruling coalition of 55 years loses its grip on the federal government by losing the coming elections will Malaysia emerge from effectively a one-party state to a real democratic country with a two-party system. The ruling coalition itself has been making many loud pronouncements that the federal opposition isn’t ready to hold office and has not demonstrated that it could be trusted with high office. I read this as a tacit admission on the part of the powers that be that in Malaysia there is not yet “a political system consisting chiefly of two major parties, more or less equal in strength.”

Present animated debates and arguments in Malaysia about how fair (or unfair) elections in Malaysia have been and will be have raised very serious concerns about how much advantage the sitting government in actual fact has had and will have over their political rivals seeking to unseat them. There is widespread distrust and unhappiness over the cleanness (or rather, uncleanness) of the electoral rolls as well as the mechanics and distributions of postal votes which, if true, will cast a dark shadow over the prolonged political monopoly in the country’s history.

There are understandably hints of unfair competitive practices. In the business corporate market place, an effective monopolistic practice may be punishable by law. There are legal recourse to unfair anti- competitive practices. And very substantive suits have often been brought against some very big names in corporate business.

Monopoly in any form is counter-productive. In human life and enterprise of whatever kind- in our homes, workplaces, educational institutions, neighbourhoods, religious centres, marketplace, politics and government- it leads to bad governance, injustice, blatant wrongdoings and unhealthy consequences. It transforms normally well-educated, well-trained, well-bred, religious, good-natured, intelligent, clear-thinking human beings into creatures of greed, domination and unreason. Monopoly brings untold damage and harm not just to its innocent victims but also its perpetrators.

For that reason, my vote in the coming elections is to end the current political monopoly which at last will pave the way to a two-party system in Malaysia.

Only then can neither political party take the voters for granted. Only then will neither party so easily set themselves too comfortably upon the seat of government and start to think their party and the government of the people are synonymous. Which among other things may mean, “What is yours (the people’s money and resources) is mine (the party and its leadership).

Only then will neither party and leadership morphe into arrogant, careless, do-as-they-please governors over a helpless, cowed populace.

Only then can Malaysians contemplate the improved prospects of their future, go to bed and sleep easy. Only then can Malaysians know that if their government misappropriate or mis-deliver or misconduct itself, there is a remedy the next time they vote.

Posted in: Elections