What to consider when voting?
This column offers five lenses to look through and shape the decision. It is for the voter to decide which is more important, or if several of them do in degrees. Or none of them do.
Of whether to look at it conceptually, a binary challenge, CV, strategic and on principle.
Here we begin concepts. The rest will follow soon.
Regardless, the vote is yours. A democracy yields to you, the citizen. It lacks meaning without you, the citizen.
But, in that spirit of freedom, if you must, use a magic 8-ball instead.
Concepts need context
What does the vote do?
It is not false to assume that elected politicians must perform for the electorate. It is the “what is performance” which baffles voters. For it shapes the method to measure outcomes, which in turn judge politicians.
So, there are clogged drains or flooded homes to fix. They individually need support.
Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders by virtue of federal power possess an absolute advantage here. Even when state governments are out of their direct control, seemingly. For, they can contact any ministry — which determine documentation, access and even citizenship — or government linked company — which provide basic paid services such as electricity, water and Internet.
BN leaders have control. Yet, they can’t — and tellingly, won’t — assist everyone, but they can and do for some, which is far better than Pakatan leaders, who will end up queueing up for services just like regular voters.
They can ask for cooperation, BN leaders can demand action.
Unless of course, Pakatan wins federal power.
But if it is about personal gain and staying onside with power, then it is a no-brainer as a voter who to support. None, whatsoever.
But if government is about picking legislators who shape policies, layering protections within them, and therefore use them to ensure civil servants fulfil their end of the bargain, then a drain man is a stopgap, not a solution.
The policy maker reminds the service not to push them to choose between them and the rakyat, because they’d go with the rakyat.
There are millions of civil servants and their immediate families among the 14 million voters, but not every voter is a civil servant or part of a civil servant’s immediate family.
That’s what the politicians are expected to do, not stand over local council workers while they unclog a drain as they show a smug smile to the unit owner. They are expected to make government work for all of the rakyat.
That the local council cleans the drain, periodically and diligently because it is the council’s job and not because politicians have ordered them.
The representatives do what it takes so the system is better, not firefight and exhibit the depths of their patronage.
But to measure if politicians are fulfilling the role of setting the tone for government requires an eye in the legislative arena, aided by the media, and not merely an on the spot assessment of when in trouble has there been aid from the politicians.
Most Malaysian politicians on both sides of the divide do not have legislative chops, unfortunately. The ones that do, hold on to them.