Isnin, April 22, 2013


Candidate vs party: How to choose?

Khairie Hisyam Aliman

APRIL 21 — I remember a time in my early teens when I sat near a group of adults discussing the pros and cons of BN and the opposition at a local kenduri.

Eventually one of them turned to me and asked which party I would support. “Depends on who the candidate is, I suppose — if he is a good person or not,” I said. They laughed and did not take my comments seriously. One even joked that “he meant it depends on who pays more.”

I felt slighted, of course, but I said nothing and walked away. To me, individual merits should have as much importance as which political ideology the candidate subscribes to.

In light of the confirmation that DAP’s candidates can contest GE13 with the party's rocket symbol, we are now left to wonder how people would have voted if DAP’s candidates had been forced to contest under the logos of PAS and PKR respectively.

It would have presented interesting questions that should be considered even if the RoS–DAP episode never occurred. Would you vote based on which party the candidate represents or the individual merits of the candidate themselves? Which factor do you give more weight to?

Some, like former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, urged voters to cross BN’s logo regardless of who is contesting. "We should come out in full force to vote for BN, don't care who the candidates are, don't look at their faces, and just cross the balance scale. The voters should remember that it is the party that forms the government, not the candidates,” Tun Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying.

But then again, the party that forms the government comprises the candidates. These are the people who will be considering each Bill and proposed policy change which in turn will affect our lives and our country’s progress.

They will be debating and arguing in Parliament on our behalf. Their personal leanings, what issues they feel strongly about (and don’t) would affect what things they would fight for and against the hardest, and vice versa — would your representative reflect what you actually want?

So what sort of people we want to represent us in Parliament should matter as much as which party they belong to. Indeed, many grassroots leaders from both sides of the political divide appear to be well meaning, honest folks who genuinely care for the local community.

We like them because they help us with our grievances, issues, problems, and they are also accessible. The only obvious difference between them is which political party they belong to.

But as pointed out by a friend: “That in itself is a big difference ... what policies they support and champion.”

A valid point — what policies and which leaders the local leaders in turn support also reflects on them as representatives. Then again, if we put an absolute standard on policies, the candidates themselves would be redundant in voters’ considerations.

Then why bother choosing and deciding who gets to contest which seats then? Why would some people decide to contest independently when not selected by their parties to contest?

If you like a party’s policies but dislike some of the candidates they chose to represent them — as in the case of MIC members and a certain BN candidate — then there is a conflict. If you like a candidate as a person but have reservations about his party’s policies and leaders, there is a conflict. So how?

It’s a complex consideration that I feel can never yield an absolute right or wrong no matter how many pixellated words we devote to discussing it. So let me end with a friend’s own words which I feel is a fair summary of voting considerations:

“I for one am hoping for individual talent and calibre. It makes a big difference when fighting for/against policies in Parliament. I want decency and maturity from government and opposition MPs alike. Too much to ask ah?”

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