‘Malaysia Baru’ was probably just a coincidence

‘Malaysia Baru’ was probably just a coincidence
By Zan Azlee

Recently, I was a guest on journalist Norman Goh’s podcast called Bicara Minggu Ini. We spoke about many things, from Covid-19, fake news and to, of course, Malaysian politics. One of the things that I kind of threw back to Goh when he asked me if we would ever get back that “Malaysia Baru” spirit again is: what if May 9, 2018, was just a coincidence?

After everything that has gone down in Malaysia from a Pakatan Harapan government that, although was trying, couldn’t fulfil many of their promises in their manifesto, to the most unethical government takeover we now know as the Sheraton Move, I feel that Malaysians never really earned the change that they wanted all this while.

Let’s go back two years ago on that fateful day when Malaysians went out to vote in the middle of the week and somehow managed to vote out the BN, which had been the government for more than 60 years. How did it feel for many of you Malaysians out there on that particular day? Did you feel like something special was going to happen?

I have to say that on election day, I didn’t feel anything special was going to happen. I was definitely excited, but the feeling of wanting to make a change wasn’t as strong as the previous general election in 2013. That election period was really special. People of all walks of life were out campaigning and showing their desire to form a new Malaysia.

Unfortunately, when the results of the election were announced, BN still held on to the majority in Parliament and so continued to govern the country. Truth be told, the opposition won the popular vote because more Malaysians voted for them and not for BN. But with how the constituencies are structured, the majority of the seats went to BN.

The mood was very dark indeed

The mood that very next day of the 2013 election was very dark indeed. So dark that they even organised a Black 505 rally to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the election result. I felt dejected because the hype was so strong that I genuinely thought that this was going to be the general election that would change it all. I’m sure many felt that as well.

After 2013, I convinced myself that I would never see change happening in my lifetime. It didn’t mean that I gave up because I was still practising my journalism the way I always did and I was still expressing my thoughts. I was just keeping it real. Or maybe it was just a way for me to manage my expectations so I wouldn’t be disappointed again.

So, when 2018 came about, my ‘keeping it real’ spirit was going in full force. I would go out and vote, encourage others to do the same and continue writing my opinion pieces and producing my documentaries and news reports. But at the end of the day, I didn’t think we could change the administration. The mood was just to continue with a strong opposition.

Suddenly, when the voting ended and as the results started to trickle in, the indication caught everyone by surprise. All the media reports were showing that Pakatan Harapan was leading in a majority of the constituencies. The hours of the night went by and it looked clear that Harapan had won but, as we all know, the Election Commission was hesitant in releasing the official results.

They eventually did and the whole of Malaysia was euphoric. I knew I was and I even shot a documentary of the whole election day titled “We The People – #BangkitMalaysia”. Finally, there was change. And what made it sweeter was the fact that I didn’t think it was going to happen. What happened exceeded my expectations.

Fast forward to today. Yet again there is a disappointment. Disappointment with all that has happened in the last two-plus years. And when Goh asked me on his podcast if I thought Malaysians could again come together and bring back Malaysia Baru, the disappointment in my response was very obvious.

Maybe May 9, 2018, was a coincidence. The voters were not thinking of fighting and making a change. They just went out and voted. It just so happened that more voted for Harapan. Sure, it could have been because they wanted change, or were tired of the allegations of corruption like 1MDB, or even because they saw Dr Mahathir Mohamad fighting for the opposition.

It was just a coincidence and because of that, it caught everyone by surprise. In fact, it even caught Harapan by surprise. Look at how long it took them to form a cabinet. Mahathir even said it caught them by surprise when he mentioned that their manifesto would be hard to fulfil because they didn’t think they were going to win anyway.

So, if there is to be another general election soon, I don’t know if Malaysians are going to be able to pull it off again. We may just be stuck in a plateau forever. But like I said, I am not giving up and I don’t think I ever will because I want my children to have a better country to live in. I hope Malaysians can prove me wrong. I really hope so.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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