Looking backward, looking forward
As Malaysians look forward towards the 13th GE, perhaps it’s a good time to pause and look backward towards the lessons of the 12th GE. The 12th GE is historically significant because for the ruling coalition was denied, for the first time in its long rule, a two-third majority in the Parliament.
More importantly, the last GE demonstrated the meaning of the phrase “rakyat is boss”. The 12th GE saw voters going to the ballot box with a critical eye towards the performance of the ruling coalition despite its overwhelming advantage of the mainstream media extolling the virtues of Barisan Nasional and the promises of more development projects for electoral support. The days of a lopsided media singing praises and promises of developmental projects are over. The rakyat now wants to appraise the overall performance of the government and not mere promises and perception.
When the results of the 12th GE were announced with its surprising results, the specter of May 13th was raised which caused some anxiety in certain quarters. But as the next day dawned, people went about their daily routines and the day passes as any other day. Malaysians demonstrated on that day their political maturity that the threat to violence will not be tolerated. This maturity was seen again, post-12th GE, when a spate of attacks on places of worship saw Malaysians from faiths coming together to condemn such attacks as un-Malaysian.
The most important development in the years leading up to the 13th GE is the rise of civil activism among ordinary Malaysians. For example in Bersih 2.0 and 3.0, Malaysians from different walks of life came together, despite threats by authorities that such gatherings are illegal. They braved the water cannons, tear gas and charges from the police to stand up to their right to peacefully gather and demonstrate their demands for an electoral reform. Such activism is unheard of prior to 2008 and again shows a political awakening among Malaysians that the will of the rakyat cannot be denied.
As we head towards the polls this Sunday, lets us then not forget the lessons of the 12th GE that the “rakyat is boss”. In the face of misinformation and the threat of violence, let us remember to “keep calm and vote”.