The Hulu Selangor by-election will go down in Malaysian electoral history for a number of firsts: first to earn royal rebuke for politicking civil servants and first to see Umno complaining about abuse of government machineries!
But the more important issue is this: Has our election descended into a competition of private deals rather than public interests? The question is important because the member of Parliament elected for Hulu Selangor will be speaking and voting on numerous public issues of national importance and which apply across the country. As a matter of fact, he will actually has less time for local, municipal or even state concerns.
If nothing is done about this then our elections will often become a de facto competition between the state and federal governments with both side abusing the resources entrusted into their hands to make localised private deals with pockets of voters here and there.
The champions of such deal-makers, whichever side they are from, will not learn to speak for public good for after all their `training’ is in wooing the local, parochial interests.
From this perspective, there should be something done about the way our elections are going. We desperately need to steer our elections away from competitions pandering to parochial interests and the making of private deals towards a direction based on national policy and the articulation of public interests.
Perhaps the bad quality of debate we witness nowadays in Parliament amply testifies to the years of such mis-training/mis-conditioning of our national representatives.
My suggestions include that civil servants should find excuses to boycott any government function that smells of politicking. This whether they are education ministry (BN) or municipal council (Pakatan) events.
Umno’s objection to the allegedly bias election administrator should apply to all civil servants whether state or federal. If this issue is put right now, then the Hulu Selangor by-election will really make history.
Another suggestion is to change the laws to empower the Election Commission to compel the candidates to face questioning by voters. For exmaple, if 500 voters in an area want the candidates to be brought to a common platform for a debate and questioning, the EC should be empowered to facilitate this at a public venue.
Some election administrators overseas are empowered in this way to turn election campaigns into more interactive affairs. It will put the candidates on the spot to spell out what they are going to do if they are elected - in clear contrast to the current one-sided monologue from candidates when they deliver their ceramah whichever party they are from.
Politicians in Malaysia – from both sides - don’t like to entertain public queries. They should learn to face the voters who put them in their high office in the first place. In this way, the deal- maker candidates will be sorely tested to answer their theft of public resources to do their personal campaigning - especially if law enforcers and public prosecutors are sitting in the front row listening!