POLLING is less than a week away. Have voters made up their minds or, even more fundamentally, are they going to vote?
Voting is an important obligation for citizens to express their opinion and preference to decide on whom to represent their constituency, and the party affiliation of the elected representative also indirectly determines which would be the governing coalition for the next five years.
Citizens definitely have the right to vote, though the caveat is that they do have the freedom to exercise the right.
Just like freedom of expression, citizens should be able to decide if they want to remain silent, and not be morally condemned for that.
Now that the general election campaign has started, we get to know the candidates’ names and faces, background and their aspirations, as well as their respective coalition’s manifesto.
The willingness to vote seems to be improving, so this election is the hottest in terms of contending sides and number of candidates, which makes it difficult to choose.
On social media, some argue about whether voting should be based on candidate (quality) or party (affiliation). To me, it has to be both.
This is because on the ballot paper, for every corresponding empty box to mark ‘X’, there will be a candidate’s name and his or her party logo (except for independents).
If the voters should consider which party comes first, then would it mean regardless of the candidate the voters should vote with no question asked?
I argue against this voting strategy, because it would backfire if the candidate has serious flaws that the voters choose to ignore.
First, they might not serve their constituency well, and people might not see them often and get their help.
Second, they might not be effective in representing people’s issues if these elected representatives serve their party bosses more than their real bosses, the electorate.
Third, they are not competent in law-making, to hold the government accountable, and could even be absent often from parliament.
Party affiliation might not guarantee the fundamental purpose of voting – elect someone who is people-centric and able to really represent his or her constituency.
Thus, the voters need to evaluate the quality of a particular candidate whether he or she can deliver promises made.
Equally important, the true spirit of electoral democracy is that every vote represents a voice, a support for a particular candidate and party even if they are defeated in the end.
You should not take the narrow utilitarian view that only the majority matters and as such heed the call from some bigger party coalitions to urge not to “waste” your vote on smaller parties or independent candidates because they might not win.
One person, one vote, one voice, that is the mantra of electoral democracy – unless you make friends with all the voters in your constituency, it is always the case that the “strangers” decide the outcome whichever way you vote.
If you are a rational voter, please think independently and critically, vote wisely for the candidate and party which truly deserve your support.
Every vote carries weight – even the support for the ultimate losers is valuable, because your vote is sending a message that you value and support them and that you wish to see them around, work hard to continue to serve the constituency as well as play the effective opposition role to hold the newly elected representative accountable.
If most fall for the gambit of bigger parties, then the parliament would be filled with party “yes-men” (and women) or opportunists who might have their own personal agenda.
The Sheraton Move, for instance, provides a valuable lesson that the questionable elected representatives could betray your mandate.
What if, as a result of the gambit, the quality candidates from certain smaller political parties and independent candidates forfeit their deposits as a result?
How does the outcome encourage them to stay relevant, representing your values, interests and expectations, so that electoral democracy will flourish?
I do understand the limitation of our first-past-the-post electoral system that usually can only sustain two-or three-party competition.
This election is actually quite a picture to behold, with many parties in competition, where it has really pushed even the bigger coalitions into making considerably more effort to woo the electorate.
Lastly, I urge the voters to do their homework in evaluating every candidate and party contesting in their constituency.
Think critically and independently to decide which one you truly support and deserves your vote.
No matter what the outcome, voting is only an exercise we see every five years.
If you want to see real changes in policy and solutions to public issues, you also have an obligation as an active citizen to continue monitoring, holding the government accountable, and advocating for causes that serve the public good. – November 14, 2022.
* Lim Chee Han is a founding member of Agora Society and a policy researcher. He holds a PhD in infection biology from Hannover Medical School, Germany, and an MSc in immunology and BSc in biotechnology from Imperial College London. Health and socioeconomic policies are his concerns. He believes a nation can advance significantly if policymaking and research are taken seriously.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.