MELAKA, Malaysia – The internet – with its news sites, social media and partisan blogs – is helping to spur change in government here and, I hope, will eventually bring true democracy to my country.
Yesterday, Malaysians over age 21 went to the polls and elected a new government for the coming five years.
As the culmination of months of campaigning – labeled by some as one of Malaysia’s dirties elections ever – it proved a pivotal moment in the nation’s history.
Since Independence Day in 1957, Malaysia has been governed by only one political coalition, the Barisan Nasional, or National Front.
In the last decade, however, thanks to the internet, people have become more aware of the corruption and dirty politics played by the National Front.
In the general election in 2008, the National Front lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament and since then, it’s been harder for the coalition to pass unfair laws. Internet blogs can take credit for that.
Since the government announced the date of this year’s general election, allegations of corruption and vote-buying are on the rise.
The last straw was when the opposition, Pakatan Rakyat, or People’s Alliance, claimed that the government has been paying and flying in thousands of foreigners from Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries to vote in Malaysia’s elections.
When I first read about it, I felt angry and helpless. I am a 19-year old Malaysian and I cannot vote in my elections but somehow a Pakistani can vote in my elections. Where is the justice in that?
Other charges levied by the opposition against the government make me mad. They claimed their supporters were beaten by the National Front’s hooligans and that the police did nothing, and that Malaysians living outside the country had trouble casting their ballots by post.
It seems to me that the National Front was doing everything it could to ensure victory at any cost.
Election officials didn’t announce the final results until after 2 a.m. today. Never before in Malaysia’s election history have the voting results been so late, but that didn’t surprise me, either.
To my great disappointment, the National Front remained the federal government of Malaysia, but the small bit of good news was that the opposition won seven more Parliamentary seats than they did in the last elections in 2008.
These seven seats, won in East Malaysia, proved that the People’s Alliance is making inroads in two states that have long been considered government strongholds. Also the results proved that for the second time in Malaysian history, the National Front failed to retain a two-thirds majority.
I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. to watch the live election updates online. While watching, I read reports of some brave Malaysians who tried to prevent voter fraud, even forming human barricades in some places, because police were of no help.
It is these courageous people who give me hope.
When I saw that the National Front had retained a simple majority to form a government, I cried. I love Malaysia and it saddens me to see my country being destroyed by the very people who are supposed to protect her.
But despite my feelings of disappointment, anger, sadness, and disillusionment, I take hope in the fact that democracy is a journey, a process. It doesn’t happen in 10 years.
We might have lost because of dirty politics, but the government can never silence our voices. We have Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites that were greatly used by the young people in this election.
We will continue to speak and we will continue to fight for a clean electoral list, for leaders who are not corrupt, and for fair elections.
A defeat cannot weaken us; it can only make us stronger.