One hundred and twelve MPs are necessary to decide whether our lights get switched on and our highways are clear. They also determine the education policies, financial oversight and appropriate conditions for the prosperity of this nation. Those and many, many other things.
One hundred and twelve MPs form the simple majority necessary to choose the prime minister, and therefore in Malaysian terms, choose everything which is government, which is overarching, domineering and often absolute.
If such power is in the hands of so few, the two hundred twenty two from whom somehow the half plus one must emerge from, then surely it is sacrosanct, this thing that decides the MPs.
Which happens only every five years in this country. A long interval and with no other mechanism or democratic process in-between.
Everything at the general election.
So far, so good.
Elections are won by candidates. As many candidates as possible, endeavouring the win those 222 races, and to have at the end of the day, at least 112 winners who are of the same opinion and commitment to who should be the prime minister of this land.
So you’d imagine, elections are super duper important.
Which means the ingredients of the elections, the candidates, are equally super duper important.
No candidates, no elections.
Which brings us to the archaic tradition in the country of Nomination Day.
This is the appointed day where prospective candidates show up, presumably with many supporters as a show of force, and submit their papers in a quiet room with other prospects.
The returning officer from the Election Commission scrutinises the submissions, and decides if the forms are correct. Then they are displayed, with objections possible on various grounds like the endorser is not from the area, or there are missing details.
If everything is fine then the candidates are announced.
In the very good years for Barisan Nasional, usually the Mahathir years, x number of candidates are disqualified with almost all of them from non-BN parties. Some candidates can win by just filling their forms right, and see opponents off because they have poor form filling capabilities.
Quite disturbing right, well to the sensible.
Yet, in 2018, we still have Nomination Day.
I’m not asking for the nomination process to be scrapped, for it is necessary.
What is unnecessary is the need for it to be completed inside the confines of several hours, creating a level of panic, intrigue and severe dejection for no sustainable reason.
How can the people of a constituency be robbed of options this way?
Candidates should be able to file their papers over a duration, office hours definitely, and also allowed to correct their forms if they are problematic.
It’s forms, not substantive discussion on policies.
And the Election Commission can allow itself time to peruse documents, by setting a period for submission and corrections with their advice, and then proceed to an online display period, and allow for objections.
These are all procedural and documentational.
And they should not be treated anything more than procedures and documents.
The demand for a sensible nomination method does not alter conditions like disqualifying bankrupts or convicted felons of a certain class and upholding other requirements.
Democratic overseers have to embrace the idea of representation, fair speech and choice, and not hide behind the excuses of history, internal procedures, legal instructions and arrogance — “this is how we prefer to do it.”
The nomination process has a functional purpose, but creating these hoops for people to jump through is just obtuse. Worse, it is anti-democracy.