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JANUARY 4 — 2020 was exhausting, painful, and more importantly, of despair in many ways. Our hopes and dreams of Wawasan 2020 turned from a vision to a nightmare. From the ‘Sheraton move’ to the pandemic and the economic fallout, some were angry but most turned cynical.
According to a recent finding by the Centre for the Future of Democracy, Generation Z or now known as Zoomers, has never before been so dissatisfied with democracy, particularly when compared to the older generations. In fact, when we look back at home, we are currently experiencing political instability and economic exclusion, which would ultimately contribute to a democratic disconnect among the youth. To put it simply, the youth are increasingly turned off by politics.
While politics of cynicism and resentment has never been so high perhaps since the inception of our nation, I still believe that politics of hope can prevail. Some would say it’s blind optimism, but if we all work together, we can soldier on and build back better.
The below are a few approaches that we can focus on to create a better year ahead.
1. Solidarity, not meritocracy
Solidarity, and not meritocracy, will help us weather through these crises.
The pandemic and its containment measures have decimated jobs and placed thousands of Malaysian livelihoods at risk. Without an income and sufficient social protection during this period, inequality will sky rocket and will create a vicious poverty cycle if the mindset of ‘survival of the fittest’ persists. The poor will be poorer, the rich will be richer.
During these periods of economic adversity, everyone plays a role in ensuring our nation recovers economically better. If you’re better off, donate to your local community and the poor; if you’re a boss, provide decent pay to your employees and avoid retrenchment. We’re all in this together.
Moreover, to mitigate the pandemic outbreak, we need to have solidarity for everyone including the outcasts in our society. For instance, prison inmates, refugees, illegal immigrants, and foreign workers should be provided with clean and hygienic living quarters where physical distancing is possible. The failure to do so, as we’re facing right now, will cause more Covid-19 clusters and perhaps even a fourth and fifth wave.
2. Change starts with us, not the government
Pakatan Harapan and its predecessor, Pakatan Rakyat have campaigned on the idea of change since their inception. In GE14, about 5.5 million Malaysians put that hope on that idea, and succeeded in changing a 60-year-old regime. Throughout the 22 months under the PH Government, however, those who voted on that idea were reluctant to change.
To put it simply, everyone wants change, until it happens to them. Everyone wants the rule of law, until it is applied to them. Everyone wants corruption to go, until it benefits them.
Change will only happen if ordinary people get involved and get engaged. Change will only truly come when we become the change and not just demand a change of government.
3. Politics of kindness
Malaysia is currently in a 50:50 democracy. A democratic process that began since GE12 where the government’s SOV was at 51.4 per cent, while the opposition’s SOV was at 48.6 per cent. In GE13, the government actually lost the popular vote where its SOV was at 47.9 per cent, while the opposition’s SOV was at 52.6 per cent. Similarly, the government lost the popular vote again at 48 per cent, while the opposition garnered 52 per cent in GE14.
Thus, the idea that one political party or coalition can bully and demonise others is wrong and it should end. Instead, political parties should start treating each other as rivals and not enemies. Kindness and empathy should be the emphasis and not assertiveness and strength.
The ‘Sheraton Move’ may be one of the most undemocratic political maneouvering our nation has ever experienced. However, it’s not the doom of democracy. Instead, it might lead to further democratisation if we believe in it and fight for it.
A few indicators can justify this idea. For instance, the Johor Mentri Besar recently called the Opposition ‘strategic partners’ and provided equal allocations to all state assembly persons regardless of party affiliation. Similarly, the Perak Mentri Besar struck a confidence-and-supply agreement (CSA) with the Opposition, which provided equal allocation to all state assembly persons and invited the opposition to various district-level committees.
Many are angry and disappointed by the outcome of GE14 and the ‘Sheraton Move.’ Some are dissatisfied with the promises made by politicians, some are furious at politicians switching allegiance without any repercussions. I think that it’s right to feel that way. But, it would be a false notion to think that there is no point of voting anymore.
Just by virtue of one single election, things don’t become perfect, but it makes things better.
As a matter of fact, civil rights of African Americans was not guaranteed when Abraham Lincoln won the presidency in 1861 or even after the American Civil War. It took decades to do so. Even until this current day and age, there are still some setbacks. This shows that even fundamental human rights could take years to be recognised. And that is part of democracy; it won’t always be a smooth upward trajectory ride, but a series of ups-and-downs.
Similarly, it took three general elections (GE12 to GE14) for a regime change, and it may take dozens more for real and proper reforms. That said, I hope Malaysians will hold that same belief in GE15.
Democracy has always been hard. For every two steps forward, it often feels like we’re taking one step back. But, so long as we keep fighting and persevere, I’m confident that we will move forward to build a democracy for all Malaysians. Democracy, after all, is a marathon, not a sprint.
There will always be hope in politics.
*Sun Cheng Kidd is the Co-Founder of YPOLITICS, a multi-partisan and independent youth-led movement that aims to generate a more politically aware Malaysian youth.
**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.