Maria ChinMarch 9 – I wanted to rejoice when I heard that Maria Chin had decided to run for office.

But her statement about offering herself as an “independent candidate to Pakatan Harapan (PH)” in the 14th general election was confusing. 

If Maria, who has resigned as head of Bersih 2.0 to join politics, wants the freedom to have her own position on various issues, then she should contest as a true independent and run against both PH and BN. Rather than to run on a PH ticket without joining one of its component parties.

Why should any political party give up a seat? In the unlikely event that any PH party gives Maria a parliamentary seat, they will probably try to persuade her to join formally after the election.   

If Maria generally agrees with PH policies, then there is no reason why she shouldn’t join one of its component parties.

There is nothing wrong with joining a political party if you support its ideology. Politics shouldn’t be seen as “dirty”.

In a country that has only had one government since independence – which does not uphold basic democratic practices like parliamentary select committees and constantly ignores civil society – it is tempting to join politics so that we can have just a little measure of power to realise our agenda for reform.

It is a shame that both BN and PH exert immense control over their lawmakers and prohibit them from voting against the party line, even if the representatives are merely trying to protect their constituents’ interests.

It is also a pity that PH is led by a 93-year-old autocrat and upholds the same race-based politics that DAP and PKR condemned once upon a time.

So I understand why Maria is reluctant to formally join a PH party, but she can’t have her cake and eat it too.

Either she joins a party that best aligns with her personal ideology (and try to change party culture from within to give elected representatives more freedom), or she stands on her own ticket as an independent. I wish that she would have the courage to do the latter.

If Maria ran in Segambut as an independent against PH and BN, I would vote for her in a heartbeat. I might even help campaign for her.

BN is corrupt and has been in power for too long, whereas Pakatan has not bothered to act like a government-in-waiting despite having run two states for 10 years.

Besides, I like Maria’s policy platforms on gender equality, environmentalism, and electoral reform.

If there was one person who could possibly win an election as an independent, that person would be Maria.

Running as an independent against PH and BN might also help counter the perception, which solidified when Maria announced that she wanted to run for office on a PH ticket, that Bersih 2.0 is pro-opposition.

Her announcement, so close to GE14, made me question if Bersih 2.0’s fight against the redelineation exercise was genuine or in the interest of PH.

Despite the many real concerns of racist gerrymandering, the redelineation exercise is long overdue since the last time constituency boundaries were redrawn was in 2003 for the peninsula and Sabah, 2005 for Sarawak. Redelineation must be done within eight years of the last review, according to the Federal Constitution. 

But perhaps the biggest civil rights movement in Malaysia does not care about being labeled pro-opposition (because it has decided to openly stump for PH), in which case, Bersih 2.0 should find another cause to fight for.

It is fine to endorse the Opposition, but Bersih 2.0 cannot then fight for electoral reform because the very nature of elections is so closely intertwined with political parties that it requires neutrality, compared to issues like gender equality or climate change that aren’t directly linked to political players.

In any case, it is great to see women running for office. Parliament desperately needs more women.

We have had old men running the country for way too long.