Do cash and handouts win elections?

Opinion  |  P Gunasegaram
Published:  |  Modified:

QUESTION TIME | I have always wondered about cash and handouts winning elections.

The opposition, in particular, has been rather vocal, at least privately, about how BN has a lot of money and they use it to win elections. When I ask them why don’t the public just take the money and gifts and then vote for the opposition anyway, the answer is unsatisfactory.

Oh, they have taken the money/gifts and therefore feel at least a moral obligation to vote for BN, the answer comes back. One opposition leader even went so far as to say that “We too need to do this, distribute rice, etc, to win the elections”.

Really? Is there such honour among those who take bribes when they have committed an illegal act by accepting gratification in return for an agreement to vote BN in the first place, that they will vote BN at the end of the day?

Don’t they realise that it’s their own money that is being given back to them? Surely it can’t all be true that bribes are necessary to get votes. And even if it were, it is abominable and a downright wrong way of getting votes. Does the opposition propose vote-buying too?

It is, of course, true that the incumbent government is in a better position to offer goodies during the current elections in what is quite a blatant, flagrant violation of the Election Offences Act whose enforcement historically has been rather lax by the courts.

But increasingly, while the opposition in the past could hold the high moral ground, their incumbency in state governments has resulted in them descending to the same low level as the federal incumbents, handing out gifts and cash from the state government quite openly and conspicuously.

Witness, Azmin Ali, the caretaker Selangor menteri besar. Malaysiakini was there at two out of four events Azmin had for aid distribution scheduled on Sunday, which were part of various state government initiatives.

In those two events in Ukay Perdana and Kampung Kerdas, the amount of aid distributed totalled close to RM1 million. For youths, Azmin handed cheques worth RM44,000 as student aid, as well as 14 laptops.

The caretaker menteri besar also gave six laptops to village chiefs as part of the state government's Peduli Rakyat initiative, Malaysiakini reported.

Yes, BN routinely does this as well and has announced numerous cash awards and other incentives to voters after the general election date has been set but that does not mean what Azmin does is right and...

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