Monday, March 10, 2008

Electoral Hangover

The elections are over and the dust is settling. Malaysia’s 12th General Elections saw a night of celebration and an opposition being drunk on promises of a new era, along with a ruling coalition who wished that they could sorrowfully drink themselves blind, coupled with a spectacular show of fireworks in famous defeats and some unbelievable victories. But now, I’m sure everyone’s quite hung-over and I shall leave the analysis of results to experts, of which I am not one.

Instead, I’d prefer to write about what I have learnt from these elections:

My vote really does count! It’s always been a familiar reminder but one that has never really meant much to me because no matter how many times I voted for my candidate of choice, he/she always lost! My surprise was not in how well the opposition performed this time but how many people I personally knew of, who took the time and effort to cast their ballot this time around. And this time, the popular voice prevailed. With voter turn out in the average 70s percentage, all those many voices made one clear statement.

What is the statement? Deduced from conversations over a latte or two, I think that many urbanites (or if you prefer, the more developed states) have opted for a change. And it wasn’t about the candidates. It was, as said by M Kayveas, about the badge that they wore. Latte drinkers in Bukit Bandaraya and Lembah Pantai are fond of Sharizat Jalil but many opted to vote against the “dacing”. Instead, voters opted for a 27-year old novice over a seasoned media-vixen, they turned the tide for a man who has been trying for the past 4 elections to beat Samy Vellu and even a guy who couldn’t campaign for his own cause because he is currently held behind bars on allegations of endangering national security.

And why was that? Because the “dacing” government has long deluded itself into thinking that the people are quite ok with the status quo. They have a narrow view of what the state of the general populace think of BN’s governance, the state of the economy, the state of security and the people’s opinions on social issues. They thought that by policing the press and allowing you hear what they want you to hear, they’d be ok. But it seems that they have been doing all the talking and none of the listening. They continued to shake hands and kiss babies while ignoring the youth and the burden of rising costs. They seemed to have thought that the country was doing really well but the people just didn't know it. Well, whatever. The people wanted a change nonetheless and now they have it.

So, how will this turn out in the next five years? It’s anyone’s guess, really. I think we’re not yet on the dawn of a new era. I think it's just past midnight and we still have five years to go before we can say for sure if we are on the brink of a new dawn. The opposition leaders have asked for a mandate to run things differently and now, for the first time in history, they have what they asked for. I can only hope that they deliver everything that they have promised. And at the end of their five year term, we’ll know if the change is for the better and here to stay. I hope so...