Once upon a time, elections in Malaysia were like Star Wars

LEGO Star Wars Bespin Duel.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away…  elections were somewhat like Star Wars. People's perception was simple. There was the Light side, and there was the Dark side. There were the Rebels which symbolized justice on one end, and the evil Empire on the other. The Empire commanded all the power and resources, while the Rebels struggled In every episode.

The Star Wars metaphor merely describes how people used to feel,towards previous elections. It does not depict our form of government. After all, Malaysia is a democratic country. Everyone has the right to decide who represents justice. The side I rooted for had been the underdog for decades. In year 2018, there was A New Hope, but then came The Empire Strikes Back. The Sheraton Move poured a bucket of ice water on hope. Subsequent plot twists had been more captivating than the movies.

Who could have guessed Tan Sri Dato Muhyiddin Yassin played Palpatine, and became the Emperor? BERSATU, once a part of Pakatan Harapan, formed the government with its sworn enemy UMNO. MPs leapt and alliance shuffled like mixed Mahjong tiles. Although the pandemic brought great harm, but at least it pressed the pause button on political games and bestowed the Muhyiddin government with temporary stability. Later, when Dato' Sri Ismail Sabri took over as Prime Minister, UMNO gained control of the country, again.

We found out that Tun Mahathir was no Skywalker and no hero. Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim repeatedly announced that he had the numbers to become the next Prime Minister, but nothing ever materialized. Furthermore, he was suspected to be working together with UMNO, damaging his reputation and casting suspicion upon his capabilities and motives. Lim Guan Eng was charged with corruption. The future is uncertain.

People are disillusioned. There is no such thing as an absolute Light side. Just some years ago, we only needed to deal with two acronyms, either BN or PH. Now, there are also MN, PN and GTA. The situation has become way messier. How do we choose? The coming election will be most unique in recent history, more exciting than Star Wars finale.


Once upon a time, Malay voters would choose between UMNO and PAS. Now, there are the splinter parties BERSATU and AMANAH, as well as Gerakan Tanah Air recently initiated by Tun Mahathir. Tired of old timers? You could consider the young and vibrant MUDA. Malay votes are no longer as concentrated as before. Anything could happen, as now voters' choices are no longer binary. Hence, even the Empire cannot command absolute advantages any more.

But, didn't BN achieve landslide victory in the recent Johor and Malacca elections? Wasn't that the reason why BN is forcing early General Election to pursue further victory? It is not so much that the Empire is strong, rather that the Rebels have shown too much weakness. Rebels' supporters were repeated disappointed. Consequently they voted for familiar old faces to teach the Rebels a lesson. But this emotion has passed. The past six months had introduced new variables.

The turn-out rate during the Johor and Malacca elections were 55% and 65% respectively. At that time, the pandemic was still worrying. Now, as we have entered the endemic phase, people feel more comfortable going out to vote. Furthermore, people are far more passionate about General Election than state-level ones. If the turn-out rate could exceed 80% like it did during GE14, the Empire's throne might not be as secured as Zahid presumed. His reason for rushing General Election is obvious even to the blind. His speech at the recent MIC delegates assembly highlighted that without electoral victory, BN leaders would be on a “waiting list” to be prosecuted. Serving the people did not seem as important.

The LCS scandal had shown how absolute power led to absolute corruption. With Najib in jail, Rosmah convicted, and Zahid on trial, the people had a even clearer view of the grim picture. Zahid said BN would brave the flood to campaign. However, angered people could also brave the flood to vote against tyranny.

PH does have one “advantage”, i.e. the Zeigarnik effect. People tends to remember, even obsess over, unfinished tasks. PH voters witnessed its collapse half-way through its term. It is possible that they would want to rectify the situation by voting PH in again — to complete their tasks, so to speak.

After all, political campaigns are not so much different from marketing campaigns. Voters are like consumers who are prone to impulse buying. Decisions are mostly emotion-driven. PH needs to come up with a “marketing message” that is as simple and as resonating as Star Wars, like how Tun Mahathir branded Najib as the Emperor in the past election, to boost turn-out rate. That could be PH's only chance.

The RasuahBusters, a people's movement against corruption, proposes a simple guideline for voting. Vote for the candidates who are with integrity and uncorrupted. It does not matter how capable a candidate is. If he or she is corrupted, then our national resources would not be put to effective use. Our financial leakage to corruption in the past years had surpassed a trillion Ringgit. Our current Prime Minister gave in to holding an early election. It is foreseeable that if the Empire takes over, it does not matter who sat in the seat of the Prime, he or she would be under the Force of the Dark side. The evil that had been imprisoned could be unleashed again.  How do we vote, my friend? Use the Force. Just come out and vote. Use your Force.

2022.10 published in Sinar Harian

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Chiew Ruoh Peng

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