Tuesday, 7 May 2013

My first General Election experience

I'm not passionate about politics. I almost never post anything political on Facebook, and I definitely have never written anything overly-political in my blog. But I do acknowledge the extreme importance of politics towards a nation's development, and the fact that I am now considered an adult, means I need to start taking note of the political issues in my country. It wasn't hard for me to get the latest information about politics anyway. My Facebook news feed has been full of politics these past few months. So here's my first (and probably only) political post for my blog, which will be solely based on my experiences and nothing else.
I wonder what data Google collected regarding GE13
Let's start with campaigning. I don't know exactly how much money was spent on campaigning from both sides, but it was definitely way too much. Millions of flags set up across the country, billboards, flyers/brochures sent by hand and by mail, internet advertising, TV/radio advertisements, even SMSes. That's definitely millions of RM spent in total, if not billions. I think though, none of this campaigning worked. At all. This isn't commercial  advertising. Nobody is deciding whether to buy an S4 or an iPhone 5. We're talking about selecting the leaders of our country. No amount of flags, brochures, SMS and no fancy songs will sway a voter. Voters would've made their minds up by past actions of each party, and by their respective plans for the future. Nobody will vote based on who has the most flags or who has the better songs on the radio. Campaigning is important of course. But too much can be considered suffocating. Millions of RM gone to waste. Tax payers' money used for absolutely no benefit. 

Speaking of campaigning, there was an obvious bias when it came to mainstream media usage. I'm not criticising from a political point of view, just an observation that I'm sure nobody will deny. Mainstream media, meaning TV, radio and newspapers, as well as advertising billboards, were overwhelmingly dominated by Barisan Nasional. Nobody can deny that. I'm not sure if it was due to the seemingly limitless funds available to BN, or whether Pakatan just chose not to take that path, or whether there's some law which prevents the opposition from using mainstream media, but it was certainly biased and unfair to allow that much exposure for BN. 

Other than campaigning by the actual candidates, a lot of campaigning was done by voters too. Like I said earlier, my Facebook feed was full of political posts for the past few months. A lot of information was shared, but there was also a lot accusations and fitnah being spread too. As a result, friends were "unfriended", bonds were severed, respect was lost. There's nothing wrong with being passionate, especially about something as important as electing the nation's leaders, but is it worth all the backstabbing, slander and broken friendships?

When I went to vote, I was surprised to see a group of Pakatan supporters that comprised of Malays, Indians and Chinese voters. Ignore whatever BN says about how Pakatan will divide the nation, what I saw on polling day was the complete opposite. The most surprising thing you can see (maybe not so surprising anymore) is an Indian riding a bike while holding a huge PAS flag. This is what politics are supposed to be about, brining the nation together. Not dividing it even further.

More arguing occurred even after voting. Indelible ink which could be washed away with soap, missing ballot boxes, reappearing ballot boxes, blackouts, ghost voters and recounts. Each side of the political divide had their arguments, and I'm not about to jump in and choose a side. I will however say that all of the conspiracy and controversy is proof that our election system is broken. Completely broken. A lack of transparency leads to unconfirmed reports, lies and ultimately, people losing faith in the system. If the election process was completely transparent, perhaps we wouldn't have as many arguments about things we weren't sure happened or not. It's like the glass windows looking into the kitchen of a bakery. You may not understand what's going on. You don't know the SOPs or protocols. But if something is wrong, like a baker sneezing into his hand and not washing it before continuing work, you can immediately see it and report it without any doubts. Everyone can see it. As opposed to a bakery with no such window, you can hear someone sneezing, but without transparency, one side will say a baker sneezed into a tissue, washed his hands and continued work, another side will say he sneezed into the air contaminating all the bread. There is no way to confirm which is true. 

Gerrymandering is a sign of a broken system. Image: Facebook
I think that is the most important thing my generation will remember from this election. The system is broken. You can argue all you want, but common sense dictates that in an election, the party with the most votes wins. That however wasn't the case this year. No party is perfect. Each has their own skeletons in the closet. But as a first time voter, I am more appalled by the flaws in our election system than the actions of parties and their followers. Like I said, I'm not overly passionate about politics. And as a scientist, I was trained that the methodology used to reach a conclusion is just as important as the conclusion itself. I would much rather fight for electoral reform than for any political party.

A blackout on Facebook followed the announcement of the results. Profile pictures were turning into pure darkness representing the state of democracy in Malaysia. While I am upset at the lack of transparency in the system, I constantly remind myself that everything happens for a reason, and nothing happens without His approval. Maybe Malaysia is not yet ready for a change in leadership? Maybe change must be achieved in stages and not overnight? Maybe we need to mature as a nation much more before we can change? Who knows. 

There's no escaping politics. Politics are important and necessary in the running of a country. Thanks to the actions of a select group of people however, this first time voter will continue his apathy for politics, silently observing from a distance until the next time my vote is needed.