We could write an inspiring and emotional line or two about what just happened this GE14, but your newsfeeds are already flooded with them no doubt. So we’ll cut to the chase and say, Malaysia made history! You guys voted and there is a new government (see, in our shock, we even spelled it right this time!).
After more than 60 years of one-party rule, some of you may not have thought you’d live to see the day Pakatan Harapan take office, did you? As Malaysians, we can certainly be proud that we changed things without shedding a single drop of blood. No violence, no looting, no burning of cars, homes or shops, no ugly manifestations of racism.
Here are 5 things that contributed to Pakatan’s win that Malaysians need to talk about.
1. Our electoral process (!?)
Ok hear us out before you send the eggs and tepung flying. We said electoral process not Election Commission (EC) la. Gerrymandering, alleged blackouts, foreign voters, and other alleged hanky-panky aside, the electoral process itself can be said to be arguably better than some other countries because of the level of transparency. Allow us to explain. The ballot boxes we use today are completely transparent, with latches and lids to prevent the filling of ballot boxes with fake votes.
“They [observers] will look at the closing of the boxes as witnesses. After that, the sealing process begins.” – Datuk Takun Sunggah, Sarawak EC Director, The Star
Before counting can begin, observers and polling agents have to ensure that all seals, lids and knots are not tampered with and sign a form to declare this. Additionally, polling and counting agents are allowed to monitor the entire process from start to end (despite alleged meddling from the EC), and then physical ballot papers are counted AT each polling station. Then that paper form is signed by everyone, agreed on, brought to a tallying station, and counted manually.
Of course our electoral process is far from perfect with postal and early votes easily prone to fraud. Civil society and political parties have demanded postal voting to be abolished for many years, but the EC did the total opposite last year, by silently creating NEW categories of postal voters. Among them are workers in the Prisons Department, Fire and Rescue Department, Police Volunteer Reserve, Immigration Department, and National Registration Department.
Thankfully our voting system is not digital, it’s analog, means it would be very hard to hijack true results. It has been demonstrated that as voting systems become more complex and include software, different methods of election fraud become possible. With computers, there is no actual persons there to physically monitor things. In fact, compromises had been detected in electronic voting carried out in Australia, India, Finland, the Netherlands and the US.
Nevertheless, all this transparency wouldn’t have been possible without…
2. Our Polling and Counting Agents (PACAs)
Can we just give it up for the ordinary Malaysians who volunteered to spend their whole day in schools or wherever your polling station is, to be the polling and counting agents (aka PACAs) on Rabu. Invoke Malaysia announced that 17,594 volunteers had signed up nationwide, as of April. In fact 3 of us from the CILISOS team PACA-ed. 😀 Two of us had to travel 2-3 hours away to their assigned stations outstation.
“I couldn’t sleep the night before and was so nervous. Not just cuz it’s a battle we need to fight for our nation as a citizen/voter, but also cuz I’ll be PACA-ing for the first time (at Kampar) and I take it as a huge responsibility. It may be a small role but I believe every single act counts and can make a difference. I take pride in being part of this revolution.” – Maisie Sim
In every election, PACAs plays a crucial but underrated role. Their job is to be the eyes and ears, you can sorta say they are there to police the EC staff and workers, making sure everything goes smoothly and no monkey business happens.
They worked tirelessly from 7.30am to midnight, knowing that the EC only announced the results at 5am, who knows how late some of them stayed back. They had to go for training and briefings, and then had to remember this procedure and that procedure by heart on the day. They can’t even take breaks coz need someone to continuously monitor the ballot box. If the chain is broken at any point, it could lead to election fraud. To know more about a PACAs’ duties, read here.
So yeah, if you volunteer to be a PACA, you really get an exclusive, ‘backstage pass’ to see how GE really works – before the doors open to the public, till the last vote is put into the ballot box, then comes the most important part… witnessing the counting of the votes at the end of the day, to make sure Every Single Eligible Vote is Accounted For.
3. Rafizi and INVOKE
Rafizi Ramli is no stranger to the public. Thanks to his exposes, many alleged leakages in the ex-government came to light. All this stuff might have had a hand in opening the rakyat’s eyes where they couldn’t in the pre-Internet age.
Rafizi is also known for Invoke, an organisation he started with his own money, but is now funded through public contributions. It has 82 staff in 15 offices nationwide – call centre staff, statisticians, software developers, content developers, campaign strategists, fundraisers, and field campaign coordinators. It’s a small team, but imagine what they pulled off.
Invoke has been working hard for GE14, dealing with numbers and stuff that regular folk cannot brain, in order to predict the election outcome. Because of his surveys, they knew exactly how to strategise, where to send Mahathir to ceramah, where to send Mat Sabu to ceramah, and so on. Initially, some folks pooh-poohed its predictions, but those flers are prolly glad they didn’t make a bet out of it. Just as a certain someone is prolly glad we didn’t take him up on his bet. 😛
Don’t forget that the organisation also worked hard to get PACA volunteers in, trained them and helped allocate them where their services were needed. Avengers, Assemble!
4. Parti Pribumi…er… Keadilan
In 2016, a group of Barisan Nasional rejects, leavers, a retiree, and a fresh-faced 24-year-old formed a new party called Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM). As the name says, PPBM upholds the Bumiputra agenda, so people were like, huh not another Umno. Whyyy?
But in the end, it proved to be the tool necessary for a change of government. PPBM campaigned hard, away from the cities in rural areas, where Umno was strongest. Areas where even PKR and PAS cannot penetrate. They did a lot of groundwork to reach out to Malay voters with endless ceramahs.
At the head of it all is Tun M, our 4th and now 7th PM of Malaysia, who at the age of 92, showed no signs of slowing down, even hilariously gatecrashing a forum that discussed whether he was too old to be PM. Perhaps one of the most endearing moments of his campaign was when he climbed a ladder atop a lorry in the drizzling rain at midnight to speak to the people of Parit Sulong. It made rounds on social media, but in case you missed it:
Whatever opinion each person has about race-based politics, we can all probably agree that without PPBM, the election results may have been quite different. So in the end, the race card was really their…ace…card.
5. WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube
You could say that social media is also one of the factors that contributed to Pakatan’s shock victory. Even right after GE13, people were using WhatsApp and Facebook as a platform to share news – whether good or bad news about whichever party, information was making its rounds. This was a change in the way people consumed information and probably helped to change perceptions, whereas we formerly had only traditional newspapers to turn to.
This of course intensified in the months leading up to GE14, despite the Anti-Fake News law being passed. Besides sharing information to the masses, these apps became a really useful tool for communicating and organising stuff on the ground itself. For example, WhatsApp was used to send out an SOS to all Malaysians to recruit more volunteers for PACA-ing, not to mention to communicate between PACA groups and citizens. Generous Malaysians were volunteering to carpool on Twitter, using @CarPoolGE14 and #PulangMengundi.
Meanwhile, Facebook and YouTube was used as a tool to unite news sources. In fact, it’s one of the ways reporters get their material, like the woman who brought in fake ballot papers and the case of the uncle who was turned away for wearing shorts. On D-Day itself, everyone was glued to their phones to check if any untoward incident might happen, while some of the rakyat were on the ground with their phone cameras to record everything, making sure all actions are accounted for.
If not for the public’s attention, and subsequent response, maybe it would not have been possible for the Coalition to lean pressure on the EC, Royalty, BN to transfer power smoothly.
And last but not least
You. The voters
Not only did you vote, you shared, you encouraged, you stayed in Malaysia (or went to extremes to get your votes back) and even offered each other rides to balik undi. So touching. T.T
It was reported that 3 people passed away – 2 voters and one EC official. The voters were Rokiah Sulung, 54, and Lor Voon Chor, 78, who both collapsed while waiting in line to cast their votes in Dungun and PJ respectively. In spite of their health conditions, and Lor walking with the aid of a walking stick, they both came out exercise their voting right. The EC official, Rozaliza Mohd Said, 49, had no known illnesses but complained of an upset stomach while on duty. She went to the toilet and lost consciousness, then was pronounced dead.
The belief of the people, and the unity in spite of differences had everything to do with this. But that’s only part of the battle. Now it’s time for the citizens hold our new government as accountable as the last.