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"Taking part in the process of democracy”
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"Taking part in the process of democracy”

Geetha Kanniah

On election day citizens use their democratic freedom of choice, writes Geetha Kanniah, 17, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Malaysia who recently cast her first vote. She describes the excitement of an election campaign that caught a nation’s attention.

Who are you voting for? 

That was a common question asked by Malaysians a few months ago. Though the answer was normally avoided, the discussion over the topic would last for hours. 

The elections! It’s this time when the people come together as one, practicing democracy and choosing their leaders. 

The contest was mainly between the existing government, Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposing party, Pakatan Rakyat. Pakatan Rakyat is a coalition of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).  

The responses to the parties’ manifestos were overwhelming. Both sides had valid and feasible ideas, though they contrasted sharply with each other. BN went with the tagline “A Promise of Hope”. It was aimed at providing affordable living as well as reducing the people’s burden through the concept of 1Malaysia. On the other hand, Pakatan Rakyat’s “Continuing A Journey of Excellence” motto was to give the nation a “new deal” that the people deserved. They also went with the line, Ubah! Ubah! Ubah! (Change! Change! Change!), meaning it was time to bring a difference. 

The thrilling weeks before the elections were filled with buzz. The high excitement level was clearly seen as everybody (yes, everybody) was talking, listening, thinking and debating on the topic of our future government. The elections even rubbed off on the younger generation, as discussion and debate about voting seemed to be a typical conversation during recess in school. 

Never have the youths been as involved in the elections as this year. This time we’re more informed, aware and passionate about what will happen to our future, and the media definitely played an important role keeping us in the loop. We now understand how the 2013 elections will affect our lives during our peak years, and we want to play a part in it. The internet has been a key element in keeping us well informed and we often spend our time reading the latest updates on the elections. Heated conversations were common among students in school as we expressed our opinions. 

Both parties were given 15 days prior to Election Day to campaign and they were fierce in their speeches and rallies. The excitement soared as both parties held ceramahs (public talks) to maximise their reach. Barisan Nasional’s campaigns turned into big functions – ministers attended them, food was distributed and the thousands of people were kept happy. On the other hand, smaller yet just as thrilling campaigns were put up by the opposition team, where the people were willing to sit on the floor, on football fields, on the road and just about any where to listen to their cause. But it didn’t matter how big the show was or whether we would be sitting on the ground. What mattered was who’s talking. It was the speaker’s role to remind the older generation of their voting role, to pump up the youths and to create awareness of what their aim would be. 

It was my first time attending rallies and I was amazed at the flood of people, the build-up of energy, thrill, excitement – name it and it was fiery! I felt goosebumps on my skin as I heard speakers talk with passion, with slight humor, and even mock opposing parties. 

The day of the elections came and everybody posted photos of the inked-finger on Facebook. People were fulfilling their duty and they were proud of it. But they didn’t stop there. After voting, the public, young and old, stood guard outside the voting centres to prevent foul play. People were worried about rumoured phantom voters and fake votes, and they acted on it. Even in downtown Kuala Lumpur, people stood hand in hand, checking each car that passed by, ensuring no additional votes were brought in to the counting stations. It was amazing! 

So, the votes came in and though it was an even chance for both sides, ultimately Barisan Nasional won the majority of the Parliament seats with 112 seats out of 170. They now are our governing ruler and let’s hope they do a good job! But never have results seemed so tight. I don’t think the existing government ever experienced anything like this. 

This election was an eye opener for me. I never really understood the politics of this country, but now I can proudly say that I attended the talks, I debated and I listened. Personally, I didn’t know the people were so united, but now I get it. I now understand the process of democracy because I was there. 

We are all from different races, religions, backgrounds, beliefs and opinions, but at the end of the day we care about the country’s future and we all want Malaysia to go far. Democracy means a freedom of choice and every Malaysian fights for their right to make that choice. 

photo credit: Sham Hardy via photopin cc

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About me:

I am a Malaysian who looks for adventure and thrill, and is passionate about sports. I enjoy tennis, swimming, badminton and most recently, longboarding. I also spend a lot of my time with my camera, capturing as much as I can, while documenting them on my blog: journeywithacamera.wordpress.com.  

My travels give me the exposure to learn about the world. And to know and do more, I volunteer with different organizations, particularly in the marine field. My ambition is to be an explorer and to reach out to people.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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