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Friday, 21 April 2017

Exercise your constitutional right to vote

If not, there is no point complaining about the country‘s political situation

While Malaysia’s population stands at 30 million, many have not made their voice heard. In 2016, only 13.3 million Malaysians were registered as voters.

In the last general election, there were over 6.6 million eligible Malaysians who didn’t vote and to-date, there are about 4.1 million eligible Malaysians who still have not registered as voters.

These statistics show that many Malaysians who are eligible to vote, are either letting the power to vote take a backseat in their lives or don’t know that voting is their constitutional right!

A group of young unregistered voters in Perak were interviewed by StarMetro recently.

Their answers surprised me.

Some are either not concerned with politics or feel that politicians have yet to convince them about the need to vote.

Some feel that because they don’t pay enough attention to the politics in this country, they are worried that they won’t be able to make a good decision when voting because “voting requires one to make an educated decision”. Because of these concerns, some don’t even bother to register as voters.

One said he did not understand what the politicians were trying to do for the community and since none had convinced him, he felt he should not vote because he was unsure about who to vote for.

When I first read the statistics and replies, I admittedly felt a bit annoyed.

How can you not be interested in the current affairs of our country? This is our country. Negaraku.

My friend Neo is in his mid-40s and has never voted in his life.

It seems that disillusionment and apathy are often cited as reasons why people do not bother to register, what more to vote!

Neo is one of the many Malaysians I know, who feels that the political parties currently available do not meet his expectations.

He also feels that no matter who he votes for, it will not make a difference.

I tell him every vote counts.

Remember what happened with Brexit?

If you searched online for “Brexit I didn’t think it would happen”, you would find countless of stories about hapless voters who thought that “they were merely casting a protest vote, not fundamentally altering the economic and constitutional basis of the entire country”.

An iconic tweet from a Briton the day after the EU referendum summed it all up: “I voted Leave but didn’t think my vote would count – I never thought it would actually happen.”

So going back to my point about that one vote -- it DOES make a difference.

Off I went on my high horse complaining to my husband about this phenomenon and he gently reminded me that not everyone had the same upbringing as I had, or the same passion due to it.

You see, I grew up with parents who were very interested in the state of our politics back home in Sabah. I grew up only knowing one party -- Parti Bersatu Sabah or PBS.

PBS formed and governed the state from 1985 to 1994. It also won the 1994 state elections by a narrow margin but many PBS representatives “lompat katak” or switched allegiance to the then opposition Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

I was 16 years old then. I didn’t quite understand the high emotions but I do remember “feeling” it.

In 2000, I registered myself as a voter and four years later, I got the opportunity to cast my first vote. I voted based on whom my family were voting for because “they knew best.” And then I went to university and grew fascinated with political science even though I was majoring in TV and Radio Broadcasting.

My venture into journalism, which saw me working at the news and current affairs department of a local TV station, deepened my interest in politics.

It also got me thinking.

Had PBS not rejoined the BN coalition in 2002, I wonder how the state of Sabah’s development would be today without the access to federal funds.

On the other hand, the distribution of funds should be fair regardless of whether or not the state is ruled by the party that has the majority in Parliament. Suddenly, I wasn’t seeing things through my rose-coloured glasses anymore.

I noticed the leaders I once revered were not all they promised to be, and the ones I grew up “detesting,” had manifestos that struck a closer chord to what I believed in.

I won’t deny that I too sometimes feel the political fatigue, especially when both sides of the divide fight over the pettiest of issues, but that does not mean I won’t exercise my right to vote this coming election.

Whatever the outcome may be, at least I know I made my vote count.

And instead of complaining, I will continue to serve my community and keep whoever governs, on their toes for the betterment of all.

As Election Commission chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah said, “If they do not register as voters, there is no point talking about the country’s political situation on social media. What is spoken cannot be translated into votes.”

Emcee and YouTuber Daphne Iking was recently at the launch of Action Up! Be Heard Launch. Find out where you can register yourself as a voter via votelah.org

Tags / Keywords: Central Region , Daphne Iking , Different Spin column , vote , elections , UK , Brexit

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