Have you got what it takes?

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  • Thursday, 19 Sep 2013

EVER since the exciting GE12, many young people have asked me this: How does one become a politician?

In the good old days, it was fairly simple. If you were a lawyer, doctor or a successful businessman, you probably had the right ticket to become a politician. If you were a high-ranking government officer, who is known by every village folk, that would be good too. If you came from an aristocratic family or your father was an imam or priest, and if everyone in the village knows your grandfather’s story, congratulations, you were definitely an ideal candidate. The best case is if you are born into political family. And if your father or father-in-law was a former prime minister, minister or local party warlord, you definitely have the best chance to be a candidate. Ah, I forgot to mention, you have got to have lots of money too.

Oh, that was so Barisan Nasional.

How about Opposition parties then? In that era, you wouldn’t have to be rich, but you must be vocal. You would have to ride your Honda kapcai and point at every clogged drain and pothole. You would have to carry your typewriter to every coffee shop to help people draft letters to government departments. You would have to draft three statements everyday, hoping one would make it to a small corner of a newspaper the next day. Once in a while, idealistic lawyers or professionals will join the opposition. They would definitely make it as candidates, because there were more seats  than opposition candidates after all. If you were born into a famous opposition family, chances were, you would follow in the footsteps of your father into jail.

Ever since 2008, in this age of endless possibilities, apart from the usual doctors, lawyers and professionals, politicians came from most unusual places. We have seen, in both Pakatan Rakyat as well as Barisan Nasional, bloggers who become Members of Parliament. Activists, who bring thousands to the street, became candidates and won. Some wakil rakyats were arrested so many times that they spend more time in police lockup than in parliament (ok, I exaggerated). Some firebrand NGO leaders, whom we thought were members of the Taliban, were selected to be candidates. Ah, I also know a few popular motivational speakers who turned candidates.

Education remains an important factor. If you come from famous Oxbridge colleges or Harvard, you have a brighter chance. However, we also have  curious cases where a postman and a TNB meter reader became Yang Berhormats. We used to make jokes about politicians, now smart people like nuclear scientist, bankers and professors are joining in the ranks. I was also told that every Sabah taxi driver thinks he can be Chief Minister one day. Everyone has a chance to make it big in politics, Malaysia Boleh.

So, coming back to our question: How to become a politician? 

There is no perfect CV, no perfect background nor a perfect candidate. Politicians are like Malaysians, they come from all walks of life, from different races, religions, different professions and social status. These diverse backgrounds bring excellent perspectives to policy debates and policy making. Unlike our neighbouring countries, unless you come from twenty or so political families or you are a top-notch surgeon in the country, you can hardly make it to the candidate list. The beauty of Malaysia’s political system is that anyone can aspire to become a politician and it is still open to all (and I hope it remains so for a long time to come). Malaysian politics is still open to dreamers as well as the ambitious. 

So, if you believe in a cause and you want to make Malaysia better, you should start by joining a political party. Malaysia needs you. Start somewhere and move up. The political ladder is a slippery one, you will face many challenges, but with luck and lots of hard work, you might make it there, one day.

> Sim Tze Tzin is the Member of Parliament for  Bayan Baru. He is an ordinary person.
The views expressed are entirely the writer's own

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