CommentaryOPINION

Vote for non-partisan governance

Will there ever be non-partisan governance in Malaysia? Will 2020 bring fresh hope? Only if we adopt a wholesome democratic vision, similar to the emerging spirit of newness in mainland Europe — a region loathed by pious Asians for alleged moral decadence.

But Europe has produced Greta Thunberg, a spunky 16-year-old who dares to scold world leaders for their obsession with national self-interest and reluctance to improve climate care. Now, tiny bits of mainland Europe are slowly reverting to non-partisan ab-original democracy. In small corners, local laws have recently been enacted to empower non-political citizens’ councils and assemblies whose members decide on policies related to issues of direct concern to citizens. 

These wholesome citizens’ councils and assemblies are winning support from governments who appreciate the capabilities of their well-informed and experienced members. It is honest recognition of the fact that when you cast your vote at the polling station, you are donating your voice to the politicians and they use it to serve their party agenda above all else.

Ipoh Echo’s Connexion column has long campaigned for empowerment of neighbourhood committees so that ordinary folks can make decisions on issues that they know and care a lot about. Unsurprisingly our politicians don’t support advancements that reduce the citizens’ utter dependence on them. 

Malaysian politics is trapped in a racially oriented, party-controlled, highly partisan gladiatorial style of democracy that barely resembles the genuine thing. This style encourages factional disputes and narrow interests at the sacrifice of good basic governance. While our parliamentarians rant at each other, the drains stay clogged and killer mosquitoes soar triumphantly. 

Growing public disenchantment is revealed in a Sept-Oct 2019 survey conducted by EMIR Research. In the survey, 17 percent of Malaysians polled indicated that they would rather vote for independents than for candidates aligned with any of the political alliances.

Partisan democracy has the long-term consequence of splitting a nation, as its operating principle is bifurcation or division into halves. Take Brexit as an example. British politicians asked citizens to choose between leaving or remaining in the European Union. A clear 52 percent of voters, especially citizens in Scotland and Northern Ireland, chose to remain. But three pro-Brexit parties won a majority of parliamentary seats despite receiving only 48 percent of the votes. 

By casting the issue in a Remain-or-Leave mould with no middle ground allowed, partisan politics has divided Britain into confrontational halves. Are politicians in Malaysia treating sticky issues the same way by excluding the middle ground and shepherding diverse groups into taking extreme positions? 

 

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Joachim Ng

A veteran interfaith researcher and science enthusiast, Joachim Ng has acquired more than 45 years of research experience in studying the world's scriptures and harmonising them with latest scholarly findings in many disciplines especially science and spirituality. In the 1980s, he penned a weekly interfaith column that won him a Promotion of Unity award from the Malaysian Press Institute. In addition to five earlier books, he has delivered papers at international conferences held in New York, Los Angeles, Seoul, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Assisi near Rome. A Master's degree holder from the University of Hull, UK, he is a former chairman of the Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship and the recipient of an Ambassador for Peace award conferred by the Universal Peace Federation.

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