EDITORIAL | May 9, 2018. This is the day Malaysians experienced the power of the ballot.
Anger towards the current administration had brought them out in large numbers to cast their votes in the historic 14th general election.
Few Malaysians would have thought they would live to see this day – the defeat of the formidable Umno-led BN/Alliance which had held unbroken power for 61 years.
This is the first time the country has witnessed a change of government since independence from the British in 1957.
Malaysia is probably the only country in the world, apart from a handful of communist states, to have not undergone a regime change.
Pakatan Harapan's victory is even more remarkable because of the gerrymandering, the numerous attempts by the Election Commission to frustrate the opposition campaign, and the holding of the election in the middle of the week, which most likely resulted in a lower voter turnout.
The rout of BN was made possible by a Malaysian tsunami – a tide which comprised not just the major ethnic groups in the peninsula – Malays, Chinese and Indians - but also those in Sabah and Sarawak.
At the end of the day, the redelineation, which BN pushed through weeks before the election, backfired.
Voters, frustrated with various issues, made a beeline at polling stations nationwide to reverse the efforts by BN and its functionaries to steal this election.
More importantly, this election witnessed a swing among the Malays in favour of the opposition despite the scare-mongering and race-baiting.
With this, Malaysia has taken the first step of becoming a normal country.
A normal country in which two or more coalitions would vie for power. A normal country where power now resided with the people, and not politicians. A normal country in which race and religion would not be an unalloyed obsession.
Now the hard work begins. No one should be under the illusion that a new government would be able to reverse the rot that had taken root for decades.
For a country that is so divided, it would take time to heal the wounds, and for Malaysians to rebuild the trust for one another and for the many institutions that have failed them.
Credit must also be given to those in BN such as Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, Umno treasurer-general Salleh Said Keruak and BN strategic communications department director Abdul Rahman Dahlan who were gracious in accepting defeat, emphasising that the voice of the people was paramount.
Similarly, supporters of Harapan must also be gracious in victory.
May 9, 2018, is also a reminder to all politicians not to take the people for granted. It is a reminder that it is the rakyat who are their masters, and the politicians have been elected to serve, and not lord over them.
It would be wise for the incoming government to remember this.
Congratulations, Malaysia. At last, power to the people!