The polling day for the 14th general election has been announced (May 9) and it has created such a big commotion among the people and also in the media. This is the first time in a very long time that it has been set on a weekday (May 9 is a Wednesday).
The reaction has been mixed. Some people were very upset by the fact that they think the government is just trying to make it hard for people to vote because it would mean they have to take leave from work and whatnot. Some people thought it was fine.
But of course, the majority of Malaysians (or at least the ones who scream the loudest on the internet) felt that it was not okay to have the election day on a working Wednesday. And they have gone on to try and prove it so much.
One of the most popular arguments is that in the last general election in 2013, the highest number of voters came out to vote, making the 13th general election the current Malaysian record holder for voter turnout. More than 80 percent of registered voters went to the polls.
Although it didn’t show in terms of the end result because BN, the incumbent, continued to form the government, the popular vote went to the opposition. About 51 percent of the voters had actually voted for the opposition.
So, having it on a workday would mean that it would be difficult for many people to go out and vote.
All the memes that have come out of this have been hilarious. There is one where it is just a picture of caretaker prime minister Najib Abdul Razak with the text saying “Rabu je pun. Kata nak lawan saya” (It’s only Wednesday. You all said you wanted to fight me).
How the number of arrests under the new Anti-Fake News Act has still remained as zero is quite a surprise to me. If the caretaker government were really serious about the act that they hurriedly bulldozed through right before the dissolution of Parliament, they should act now.
But here’s the deal. Throughout the many years, how many indirect challenges and hurdles have been thrown out towards the voters to make things difficult for us to vote or express our thoughts and beliefs?
How many journalists have been detained, arrested and interrogated over the stories that they have written without considering if it is true or not? How many times have news organisations been suspended or shut down with no justification?
Even the ordinary public have had huge challenges thrown at them. How many demonstrations have been plagued by violence committed by the authorities? How many peaceful demonstrators have been arrested over the decades?
Even currently, without thinking of the working Wednesday polling day – okay, fine, it has finally been declared a public holiday – the redelineation of the constituencies around the country is an even bigger problem that we have.
We live in Malaysia and we should be under no impression that things are going to be easy. In fact, we should actually expect that things will continually be more difficult. But let the facts of the matter and history show that no matter what, we have always managed to progress.
The 12th general election in 2008 saw a huge change in the country’s political landscape. Five states, Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Penang and Kelantan, fell to the opposition, the most in any election history. Of course, Perak eventually went back to BN. But it was still a relatively huge upset for them.
The 13th general election in 2013 saw more progress. It was referred to as the “tsunami election”. As previously stated in this article, it had the highest voter turnout and it was the first time more than 50 percent of the voters chose the opposition.
So a simple weekday polling day really shouldn’t be a big problem. The caretaker government has even declared it a public holiday. Many employers have decided to give their staff time to go and vote.
Travel companies like airlines are making it easier for people to make plans to travel so that they can vote. The most inspiring thing to me is that members of the public are even offering sponsored trips for voters who need to travel far to vote.
Nothing is going to stop Malaysians from voting. The more challenges thrown at them, the more they are rising up to face it head on. Malaysians aren’t a weak bunch of people. So many have already had enough and nothing is going to stop them now.
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