I OFTEN get asked this question: “What can ordinary folk do to protect our democracy?”
My answer is usually along these lines: “Firstly, nobody is ordinary; everybody is weird. Secondly, do whatever you can.” I usually then mutter under my breath, “What democracy?”
Anyway, the second half of the answer is not as idiotic as it may appear. It’s general because what we can do depends on so many things.
On an ordinary day, we are usually thinking about what to have for lunch, so we do nothing except plan our meal. But sometimes extraordinary things occur.
So if you care about the issues being propounded and there is a demo going on, by all means, lend your support. Go out there. After all, it is our right to assemble peacefully.
At the moment we are approaching an extraordinary time. GE14 is around the corner. I have always said that if we value our democracy, we must fully utilise whatever is available to us and make sure our democracy lives (even if it may be on some serious life support).
So the least we can do is vote.
People have died to have the vote, and to not use it when there is a chance to do so seems rather odd to me. I don’t really believe that there should be compulsory voting, but that is because I don’t really like anything compulsory.
But refraining from voting seems counter-productive to me.
Especially when the condition of our democracy is so fragile. If we don’t use our right, there is always the chance we will lose it.
And besides, voting is not merely about choosing our leaders. It is the only peaceful method to ensure that the policies, laws and governance that we want (or as close to what we want as possible) can be implemented by the people that we want (or the ones we dislike least).
In other words, elections empower us to determine the direction our lives take. If you are unable to do so, what it means is that you are little more than a slave or a serf. Voting therefore is also about our dignity.
So, come election day, I hope as many of us go out there and vote. And we should encourage as many of our friends and relatives to vote too.
But there is more that you can do. This general election may be a very close one. The competition is fierce and you have PAS floating all over the place as a vote splitter. This means that there will be marginal seats aplenty. Each vote therefore counts.
And more importantly, each vote has to be counted properly and any sort of hanky-panky not allowed.
Here is where “ordinary folk” can play a massive part. Anyone can be a polling and counting agent (PACA).
With a bit of training, you can be the eyes and ears on the ground to ensure that GE14 is indeed clean.
Anyone can then be a very vital part of the democratic process and a protector of democracy.
So, in reply to the question “What can ordinary folk do?”, the answer is, “Plenty”.
Azmi Sharom (email@example.com) is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.