Voting for or against?

WHEN a political party imagines defeat, they imagine two scenarios. The first is a Malaysia where their opponents will rule over them in the exact same manner as they have been doing.

The second, is that their opponents will do a far better job than they have at serving the people and country. This scenario is detrimental to taking back their original positions.

So it occurs from these two scenarios that our political parties are driven by fear.

Fear, that their existing way of leading and the power structure they have become so accustomed to will be inverted if they lose. And life as they know it will change and not in a mild and steady pace but it will change drastically for the worse. So they talk about these kinds of outcomes and transfer their unfounded fears as a campaign strategy which leans heavily on guilt tripping constituents and fear mongering.

There are two conclusions that can be drawn from this.

The first is that our politicians are unimaginative and do not understand how democracy is supposed to work.

The second conclusion though, is that our politicians are very aware of what they are doing. So much so that the thought of the tables turning on them causes such deep fear.

So as voters, knowing this, what do we do?

First, let me first put aside the political personalities and their parties and try to articulate what I am wanting but find missing in the lead up to the elections.

What I'd like are real policies not promises and big monetary announcements.

Tell me how and what is being done to ensure that all Malaysians have access to basic necessities? Don't talk to me about a strong economy, show me how the price of the humble kangkung is going to go back to RM1 instead of rising higher than the RM5.99 (per/kg) it now costs.

If there is a fund made available, tell me who is eligible, how do people apply, how it will be managed, what the intended outcomes are and who is responsible. So that if the money is siphoned, there will be no confusion as to who goes to jail.

Tell me how the wastage uncovered in the Auditor-General's report yearly will not only be stopped but those who have stolen from the country and people will be charged and forced to give back what has been stolen with interest.

Don't just announce goodies, give me tangible details. Tell me what is being done or going to be done to counter racism and religious superiority and extremism.

Tell me that there will be zero tolerance towards politicians who spew bigotry, ageist and chauvinistic remarks.

But don't just tell me, show me how the very policies of this leadership and past leadership that have led us to the current fragmented and polarised Malaysia will be changed.

This is just a short list but you get the idea.

Basically, I am tired of the vengeance and the cheap pot shots. I want to see the real plans which is really a lot of hard work, requires a lot of critical thinking and shows me a politician's true value.

Now let me bring back these political personalities into the discussion. So as I evaluate what I want versus what the available options are and their track records, I am hard pressed to find a good option or even a better option.

What I do know is that I want change.

However the two available choices have been the cause of my dissatisfaction more than my satisfaction – equally their doing.

The difference this time around is that the disappointment outweighs the satisfaction. So, what do I do with my vote?

But first a short rant.

If you are eligible to vote and have not registered to do so, then you do not get to complain. What I really do not understand are the people who go on and on about what is wrong with the country but simply cannot be bothered to register to vote.

Rant over.

As a registered voter, I have the choice to use my vote come election day. I also have the choice not to use my vote on election day and then there is the controversial third option – to intentionally spoil my vote.

There has been so much backlash about this third option. On a superficial level, it is very easy to berate those who have created the third option movement or those who are supporting it.

To say that they are shallow and don't care about the country is missing the point. A spoilt vote is not a passive reaction but an active one.

Many people have said that their vote does not matter, so why bother to vote.

The "undi rosak" followers are not giving up their right to vote, like those who choose not to turn up or those who choose not to even register.

The "undi rosak" proponents are saying my vote matters and I am exercising my right to vote but I do not like the decisions that have already been made on my behalf. That is not passive.

And that is the underlying point of contention. That the decisions have already been made and neither option is acceptable.

Which means that ours is a very flawed democracy or as it used to be termed a guided democracy – an oxymoron no matter which way one looks at it. Perhaps nowadays there is far more guidance than democracy.

If our system was as democratic and transparent as it can be, then perhaps such a movement would create the desired impact.

While I get that this movement is about being an active voter, the outcome is short-lived. It ends at the ballot box.

But at the same time to tell someone that their only option is to vote and that one party is the total opposite of the other is a fictional narrative and a dangerous one. Not only is it untrue and follows a very narrow and uninformed thought pattern, it is by far an undemocratic narrative.

A democracy will have opposing views and these views will grate us. We might even lose friendships over it. But we must realise that neither party is the saviour and disliking one party is not an automatic vote for the alternative option. But we also have to understand that an election is only one element of a democracy.

So as a voter perhaps we have to then look at the personalities, policies and party that will be able to provide the change we want.

This means that it is high time that the political parties take voters seriously. If you cannot provide a viable option at the top, then start showing us voters how much better Malaysia will be with your party doing the leading.

As Malaysians, we need to change the voting narrative from fear to hope. We need to not just value our vote. We need to support those who are putting the foundations to the kind of democracy that we want.