FEBRUARY 9 — An Opposition MP I spoke to was dismissive of BEBAS’ #CabarCalon campaign to pressure candidates in the 14th general election to commit to a stance on certain issues, namely anti-discrimination laws, secularism, and asset declaration.
He asked what I would do if none of the candidates fulfilled all my demands and said prioritising the candidate above the party was more suited for a mature democracy.
Essentially, he implied that I should just vote for Pakatan Harapan regardless of what their candidate stood for.
I admit, in the past two elections, I voted along party lines.
There is nothing wrong with voting for a party without caring (or even knowing) who their candidate is, simply because you hate the other side. People can vote whoever they want to for whatever reasons.
But repeatedly voting for a party, without pressuring our elected representatives during and in between elections to take a particular stand on issues or Bills, will ultimately harm our own interests. It is a chicken-and-egg situation.
Our silence as voters on their actual job as lawmakers (rather than as sources of charity or road/ drain fixers) allows political parties to exert control over their elected representatives, preventing them from voting against party line even if it is in the best interest of their constituents.
The dominance of political parties, in turn, makes voters feel that prioritising a candidate above a party is pointless.
If more constituents pressured their representatives to defend their interests throughout their term, then we would see MPs and state assemblymen think more carefully about voting on Bills. Political parties (on both sides) would be forced to adjust, rather than impose a blanket party line.
In any case, as a voter with just one ballot, I don’t have power over who becomes government. I certainly don’t have the power to directly elect my prime minister. I can only make one person — my Member of Parliament — directly accountable to me.
Last October, I had asked my Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng (DAP), to vote against the Employment Insurance System Bill. He didn’t reply my message. I don’t know how he voted or if he even attended Parliament during the vote.
Now I am forced to fork out RM7.90 every month for a policy that does not benefit me.
For GE14, these are a dozen things that I want my Segambut MP to do, in order of importance:
1. Enact anti-discrimination laws to prohibit property owners and businesses from discriminating against potential tenants, employees, and customers.
2. Stop the use of taxpayers’ monies for religious purposes.
3. Declare assets and business interests before running for office and periodically after.
4. Scrap a monstrous condominium project in Taman Tun that encroaches on a park.
5. Drastically increase parking fees for long hours of parking in Taman Tun.
6. Reintroduce local council elections so that the Kuala Lumpur mayor is elected and the capital city has local councillors who are also elected.
7. Remove Bumiputera quotas and discounts in property.
8. Abolish the Sedition Act and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.
9. Repeal the Official Secrets Act and enact a federal Freedom of Information Act.
10. Privatise most government-linked corporations.
11. Abolish legislation and regulations controlling profit margins and the price of goods.
12. Vote against PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s hudud Bill if it ever comes up for voting.
Politics is local. Most voters, including me, place more weight on certain things than others. Financial scandals and other national issues will certainly be a factor in decision-making too.
Politicians running for office have to judge which issues will gain them the majority number of votes, while losing a smaller number of votes based on the stance they take. To hedge their bets, most lawmakers refuse to take a stand on issues they consider controversial, usually on race and religion.
If the candidates in my constituency of Segambut refuse to support most of the issues on my wish list, I will not vote for them.