IF you could “vote out” a politician and stop him or her from participating in politics for a decade, who would you choose?
On Wednesday, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia leader Datuk Wan Mohd Shahrir Wan Abd Jalil shared a Weird Facts post on his Facebook: “In ancient Athens, the world’s first democracy, they had a process called ostracism, where once a year the people could vote on the politician they thought was most destructive to the democratic process. The ‘winner’ was banished from Athens for 10 years.”
I contacted Wan Mohd Shahrir to ask why he posted this rather pointed information.
He explained that he was prompted to do so because voters do not want leaping “frog” politicians or those who hold onto obsolete ideas – for example, ketuanan Melayu, or Malay supremacy, and reformasi, he said – or those who want to make a political comeback even though they have been found guilty of corruption.
People are unhappy with such politicians but they do not know how to channel their discontent, he said.
“We repeat the same thing, which is we vote them back into power even though they are not into nation-building.
“The only instrument we have to check a politician is a general election. After that we lose control, ” he said.
“If we think outside the box and if we can legalise it – if it’s not too archaic – we can place some control on politicians who talk nonsense in Parliament or do not perform their duties.
“Even though politicians came in with the popular vote, we should be able to ‘unvote’ them and make them stay away from politics for a while if they don’t perform.”
Who does he think Malaysians would want to ostracise politically?
Those who belong to the cold war generation, said Wan Mohd Shahrir.
“We need to get rid of these cold war politicians. They cannot unlearn what they have learned, ” he said.
“They should be retired. We have changed from the cold war and entered uncharted territory. We need politicians – not necessarily young – who can adapt to a world where data travels faster than the act of a politician.
“The future politician is a hybrid of technocrat and administrator. We do not need rabble-rousers and talking monkeys.”
I asked political research firm Ilham Centre’s Prof Hamidin Abdul Hamid on who he thought Malaysians would vote out from politics.
The old guard, said the political analyst. He argued that regardless of party politics, most voters want DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang, founder of the yet-to-be registered party Pejuang Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim out of politics.
“These politicians have been around since the 1980s. The voters want new blood.
“This old generation is used to telling the rakyat what to do. Now they have to listen to the rakyat. That paternalistic approach is no longer applicable now, ” he said.
Prof Hamidin also said that most Malaysians do not want politicians who do not engage with the people and only serve their own personal and exclusive party interests instead.
The political analyst shared the results of a survey that Ilham Centre conducted two years ago on what type of leadership Malays and Muslims want.
“They wanted politicians who have engagement with the people and are transparent, have clear integrity and are clean, ” he said. “But in the same regard, Malays are still looking for someone to protect their interests.”
Coincidently, Prof Hamidin has the same idea as me on who most Malaysians would vote out: a politician who is called munafiq (hypocrite) on social media. Netizens on Twitter and Facebook love to hate this particular MP.
I also contacted a pollster on what kind of politicians the Chinese prefer. Based on her think tank’s survey, the pollster, who did not want to be identified, said they wanted someone fair, trustworthy and not only corruption-free but who was against corruption.
“The Chinese also want a leader who can give fair treatment to Malaysians, ” she said.
The community also did not want politicians who have a traditional and conservative mindset. The survey also found that though the respondents’ priority wasn’t necessarily young leaders, they wanted someone they can trust and who has grassroots support.
On who she thought Malaysians would want to ostracise politically, she said it depends on the ethnicity of the respondents.
“In general, for the Chinese, it is someone corrupt. For some Malays, a politician labelled as a communist or anti-Malay. For some Indians, it is a religious hardliner, ” she said.
When I offered Prof Hamidin’s and my choice, she agreed, “X too. But there are other factors, ” she said.
So who would you vote out from politics for a decade?