Wednesday, 19 March 2008

A Toast for Political Competition

There is so much to say about the election results, but I will reserve this for another time (and on more issue-specific angles), especially with already so many commentaries on this matter from, well, everywhere. But in general, I believe the election result is both a very good thing and a generation-defining step for the nation. Sure we might be in uncharted waters now, almost as though we have just woken up from decades of slumber. A bit unnerving I guess. But to paraphrase a popular pop-culture quote; it is not uncertainties that we are facing now, but opportunities.

Just want to opine briefly on two matters. Firstly, all this talk on asking the Prime Minister and party leaders to step down is, in my earnest opinion, unwarranted and is motivated by political expediency rather than to make a case for accountability. In all honesty, I think the Prime Minister handled the election outcome with respectable civility. But the most immediate issue is not whether he should be made politically accountable pronto, but to ensure a stable transition to new socio-economic and institutional structures that are made necessary from this positive political shockwave. As far as I could observe, everything is mostly moving in the right direction, with some hiccups. I am not saying that Pak Lah should remain as the Prime Minister; it is just my opinion that this is the wrong priority immediately after the election.

Secondly, the new Cabinet line-up; too little, too late is the general feeling I get from most commentators. Some are glad of having Zaid Ibrahim and other respectable names; others are dismayed by the rest of the same old and the infamous. But the thing is, we should not be too beholden by the personalities in the Cabinet. This is the beauty of a stronger opposition, the political competition, that we so badly needed. If the opposition gets it done fast and form a shadow Cabinet (15 April?), every minister will have pressure to perform. If a minister is not performing, it is the onus of the shadow minister to point it out and provide a case, and for us, the public to judge. This is like the case of firm competition I pointed out some time ago. With a monopoly, consumers suffer the most. But with competition (in this case, Bertrand?), exploitation of firms are in check and consumers are sovereign.

For me, this is the most important outcome of the 8 March 2008: we no longer have to solely rely on the beneficence of our leaders; we can now depend on the institution of political competition. And the onus is on us to ensure the competition is here to stay.


1 comment:

Sean E said...

If you want to have a better future for our children in Malaysia, do your part by signing the on-line petition at

This is one way to bring our message to the Government.

Don’t just sit there, stand up and be counted! We want a fair and transparent election.


1) Gerrymandering. The discrepancy between number of voters in voting areas is too great. The smallest parliamentary seat (Federal Territory, Putrajaya, won by former Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor) has only 6,608 voters while the parliamentary seat for Kapar in Selangor has 112,224 voters. What this means is that one vote in the Putrajaya parliamentary constituency is equivalent to 17 votes in the Kapar constituency.

2) Phantom voters. A common tactic is to ‘buy’ the identity card of the voters. Party members from the ruling parties will then vote on the voters’ behalf. Random checking of a person’s identity must be conducted using those finger print checking device (like what the banks use). Any voting done on another person’s identity must be made a serious offence under the election law. Now you know why the indelible ink was withdrawn at the last minute by the SPR (Election Commission).

3) Postal votes. The rules on postal voting must be reviewed, tightened and amended. The current rule favours the ruling party as the armed forces personnel and policemen who vote by ‘postal voting’ would obviously not jeopardize their career or promotion prospect by voting for the opposition. Voting under postal voting is not secret as it is under the watchful eyes of the senior officers. Christina Liew of DAP (Api-Api) lost due to postal votes. The ruling party has control of 250,000 postal votes!

4) Spoiled votes. How do we define spoiled votes. It is very easy to turn good votes into spoiled votes (by adding one more x to the ballot paper). Are spoiled votes being verified and watched over by the party representatives? In marginal areas in which the winning margin is razor thin, the so-called spoiled votes need to be scrutinized.