The keenly contested elections in six states are over.
As expected, Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional partnership retained Selangor, Penang and Negeri Sembilan while Perikatan Nasional strengthened its grip on Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan.
A slew of analyses have examined the surge in Malay-Muslim votes for PN and the fortification of its support base. They also looked at what the outcome means for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s “unity government”.
The post-election negotiations on which parties’ representatives would helm the various governments would not have been easy, as the winning candidates and parties expect to be rewarded with positions in the state government.
Voters will now expect the winners to fulfil their election promises. During the two-week campaign, political factions from the various coalitions had made promises to uplift the economy and improve living conditions.
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A constant narrative throughout the campaign was the importance of key economic reforms at both the federal and state levels.
After the fervent debates and discussions ignited by the 2018 and 2022 general elections, we must now pivot our discourse towards state-specific issues.
This requires a nuanced understanding of the demarcation between federal and state government powers.
For the economy to thrive, closer coordination and cooperation between the federal and state tiers of governance is required.
A friend posed a pertinent question on polling day: “Most people vote in the hope [that] the government will help make things better economically. But how do you decide which parties deserve your vote? They all try to do stuff to make themselves look good when they need the votes, but after they win, are they going to continue to do the same?”
This question will resonate with many of us.
But the polarisation that has marred the nation has dominated post-election discussions about Malaysia’s future.
It raises more questions. What has impeded our forward trajectory towards a healthy democracy? Are we moving in the right direction?
Deciding whom to vote for is an enormous responsibility. It requires us to consider a combination of factors before we cast our votes.
Anchoring our common concerns is the overarching economic question. Will our vote enhance the people’s long-term wellbeing in a holistic manner?
More pressing questions linger. To whom do we entrust our votes in the next elections? What principles will guide our choices?
Should we adopt a strategic position to pledge our allegiance to any candidate fielded by our preferred political party or coalition?
Or should we vote for those who we think can enhance our quality of life?
In essence, it is about making an informed choice after considering a range of factors.
The sizeable turnout in the recent state elections stands as testament to civic engagement in Malaysia. It is something to be proud of.
We have been through tremendous political upheaval and uncertainty in recent years. We must now consider a broader range of factors to become more informed voters in the next elections.
Khoo Ying Hooi
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
15 August 2023