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Politics, bloody politics

Guest blogger and journalist Jehan Mohd mourns the loss of sense and sensibility in the days leading up to what is turning out to be Malaysia's biggest general elections yet.

The circus is back in town, nope, sorry, it's just the latest general elections around the corner.
Where have all my cat videos and baby pictures gone, or rather, what has happened to all my friends whose cat video and baby picture posts used to fill my Facebook (or, simply FB) wall?
Instead of the varied interests and quirks that make them individual people, they seem to have been overwhelmingly swept up in election fever.

Granted the build-up to this general election has been incredible — people have been anticipating an announcement of the dissolution of parliament leading to the event since last year.

When parliament was dissolved last month, suddenly everyone (or at least the ones who load status updates regularly) was talking about the elections.

Election fever is here and it's all anyone is talking about these days —can't wait for things to go back to normal.
While at first, it was interesting to see my friends become vocal about political issues, this quickly turned into something ugly.
For someone who hardly has a life outside of the online social networking site, this is an issue.

People might call this (my dependence on FB) sad and pathetic, I call it practical; eating out and socialising is costly — and, in some cases, dangerous — these days.

There seems to be an increase in criminal activity during this period — I personally know two people who were victims of snatch theft and an attempted burglary and heard or read of several other cases including two involving guns — and this is probably because the police force is being kept extra busy escorting politicians to and from their daily constituency walkabouts and ensuring the ceramahs (rallies, speeches, discussions — whatever best describes them) run smoothly.

Politicians and party followers taking potshots at each other, that's normal. What's not is the sight of my usually peaceful friends suddenly in combat mode.
My FB newsfeed is filled with posts supporting the Opposition and beating on the ruling (or incumbent, am confused as to the right term to use here) Government — basically Pakatan Rakyat (PR) versus Barisan Nasional (BN).

I’m an apolitical person — never been interested in politics and, frankly, don’t see why I should be. Only time I find them useful is during the days running up to elections when potholed roads miraculously get repaved in double time and dirty, clogged drains get cleared quickly and littered streets are cleaned up on a daily basis.

It could be because I was born and raised in a country (not Malaysia; if you’re in tune with what happens in this region, you’ll be able to figure it out) where it doesn’t make a difference whether or not you vote — the ruling government is essentially one man and his family and they have never lost a single election since independence as any real political threats to their rule are sued for all their worth or sent to prison without trial.

The only time I ever felt vaguely interested in politics and the elections was during my days as a college student at an institution in Malaysia.

It was during the 1998-1999 period when then Deputy Prime Minister now Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, was caught up in the now infamous sodomy trial and the general elections were held in late 1999.

I remember how the newspapers chronicled every lurid detail arising from the sodomy trial (Bill Clinton and Monica Lewisky had THAT blue dress, Anwar Ibrahim had THAT mattress).

I also recall how the streets were filled with colourful banners, pennants and flags of the different political parties contesting during that general election — it made for quite a colourful and carnival-esque atmosphere.

Festive mini flags — not any of the warring political factions' colours but it is an implied affiliation to a certain party that has resorted to cute gestures such as this.
That was the first time I had seen such a thing — my homeland had never been decked out so festively for the elections (perhaps because it is usually only one party — the ruling one — running for all the seats).

But that interest in politics and the elections was then and it was short-lived.

Working in a mainstream newspaper for close to 10 years now, I know of all sorts of crap that happens behind the scenes that do not (and cannot because all the mainstream media are in some way or other owned by the ruling government — for the ignoramuses who are complaining about why the mainstream papers are so pro-BN and anti-PR, that’s your reason; for that matter, all media would bow to their owners be they the government or private businessmen so take whatever you read with a pinch of salt, everyone has their own agenda) get reported in the paper — and it’s affirmed my belief that politics is a bunch of bull.

How many flags does it take to get a point across — Lembah Pantai folks will definitely not have any trouble knowing which symbol is for which party; I just pity the independent fella who doesn't have any flags or pennants.
This brings me back to the present day where Malaysia will go to the polls to decide the fate of the country tomorrow.

While I feel that the current administration is an overbearing bully and not that bright or clear of the concept of elected officials’ responsibility to the country’s people rather than to their own greedy ambitions, I do not believe that the Opposition is the panacea to Malaysia’s woes either — and anyone who thinks so are only fooling themselves.

So many friends have turned to promoting the Opposition and spreading whatever “news” the Opposition generates as truth without necessarily looking at the bigger picture (or even, gasp, the fact that they would lie to get ahead just as the current government lies to do the same).

It’s become cool to beat on the ruling government — the Opposition is like Barack Obama, bringing in a sea of change; it even has cute mascots and gimmicks such as colourful little pennants they call “flowers” to appeal to the young and first-time voters and appear more innocent and martyr-like than they are.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), a component of the Opposition coalition, hit PR (public relations, though, coincidentally, the same initials as their coalition) gold with this idea — "flowers" planted by the residents rather than politicians.
There are a few reasons why I trust the Opposition as much as I do the ruling Government (which is about as far as I can throw an elephant).

One is that the Opposition is a loose coalition put together for convenience after the last general election in 2008 — just so they can say that they control five (now four) states together rather than a hotchpotch of seats here and there — and each component in it has very different philosophies and goals.

Another is that they, like the ruling Government, are in no short supply of corrupted people in their ranks.

But the main reason I do not believe that PR would be any different from BN is because they are politicians — and ALL POLITICIANS LIE.

And in Malaysia, where the politicians seem to take office because it is a lucrative business (not talking about their salaries but all the under the table income they would get from people who want things from them), it just comes down to whose pocket you want to line — one bunch of idiots or another bunch of morons.

Okay, I admit there might be some good folks in or are running for public office but, frankly, the system will ensure they do things even they would be ashamed to admit to themselves (and this is not just in Malaysia but in every single country in the world).

I do not understand my friends who believe that these guys will bring about change just because they say they would — I think one of the first things they would do if they win the elections is fight about who will be the Prime Minister (two of the component party presidents have already staked their claim to that position should PR win in previous reports).

I do have some friends who see the cracks in both sides as I do.

As a friend of mine puts it: “Stop succumbing to peer pressure just because it’s cool to vote for Pakatan.”

She intends to vote for the ruling government because in her constituency, the Opposition candidate is a person from the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), whose vision is a “more Islamic” country than we already are (I won’t go into the details of what they do, you can check it out for yourself) — which is why it is important to consider the individual candidate, not the party.

I find it insulting when friends say that just because you are voting for the ruling government that you are a drone or you are a racist — voting, like religion, is a personal choice.

I wish they would wake up and see that just because someone sees things differently from them it does not make them a bad person.
Diabolical Candy Crush that defies its own logic but is oddly comforting in a sea of angry voices.
In all the ugliness that has come out in the past month since the dissolution of parliament, I have resorted to something I haven’t done in a long time — I caved in to peer pressure and started playing Candy Crush, a most diabolical of games that defies its own logic.

Tomorrow will be an interesting day as we go to the polls — and I vote for the first time ever — but I will be so happy for things to go back to normal and for my friends to go back to the varied interests that make them individuals.

And I would be bloody glad to not have both political parties spam my phone with text messages and recorded voice messages about who to vote for —I'll make up my own damned mind about it, thank you very much.

Political paraphernalia is nothing compared to the wrath of Mother Nature — previous days' stormy weather's handiwork is evident even when the sun comes out again.


Anonymous said…
interesting take nurjehan! awesomely written. though i wouldn't agree that all politicians are slimy (as i know some who really work hard to make their voters happy, i have to agree that elections brings the worst out of them. oh well, it will die down in a weeks time. After that we will have the govt increasing the price of good citing inflation and budget as factors. Lets go crush candies! they're more fun :)
Jehan Mohd said…
Thanks, Anonymous, I agree there may be some good people in politics (though they are rare), but as you said - the elections bring out the worst in people (and as yesterday showed, it's not just the politicians but the general populace too). I am just glad that the elections are over and that we have a few years to rest and recuperate before the next circus. Hopefully by then one of the major political parties would give me (and others who feel like me, if any) a strong reason to back them rather than distrust all.

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