The Mechanism of Democracy

Earlier, I wrote the articles named The Malaysian Spring that characterized the ongoing civil activities as peaceful, thereby setting it apart from the violent, controversial Arab Spring that has left most of the affected countries paralyzed. 

My analysis focuses on the deeply decided society as a flawed democracy, therefore the root for uprising, but I have positive hopes for the Malaysian Spring as one truly viable solution to the hegemonic democracy.

Days ago, after the government was sworn into power despite the alleged electoral fraud, a bunch of activists and political figures from the opposition were detained. Some were framed as conspiring against the government and creating unrest by mentioning merely the word ‘Malaysian Spring.’

Obviously, the ruling party has begun its tough crackdown in response to its election trauma. As apparent, after being this close to its defeat, BN has to deal with its enemies swiftly and eliminate the threats before they can rise again.

However, such action does not abate, if not worsen, the people’s contempt for BN. Yet, they have to do something, even if it is desperate.

Given the voters’ demography in this election, we can now see a clear divide between the supporters of the two contesting parties: BN and PR. I am supposed to be bias-free in writing this, but no analysis can be done if I were to adopt a blind neutrality for its own sake; else this may as well be a a mere trash talk. I may criticize one party today, but then switch my blame if I need to. Analyses are not politically blind, and has no permanent bond with any side.

The following is a candid observation.

Generally perceived, supporters for BN are: people who are threatened; extremist, racist Malays; bribed people with benefit from BN; and those who live in BN’s constructed reality. The general characterization is that they are largely weak, closed-minded people who can be gulled, brainwashed or threatened easily.

On the other hand, the supporters for the opposition party PR are the constituents of the new reality emerging in Malaysia: true muti-racial Malaysian identity. They are generally more open-minded, well-educated, active on the Internet, and politically attentive. Their minds are more opened and independent–free from BN’s manipulation. Most readers belong to here as well.

There is also the minority citizens who assert their neutrality. I have another name for them: the irresponsible.

There is no neutrality in democracy. Everyone has to take a side and decide the fate of the nation. ‘Neutral citizens’ that contributes no opinion can only be justified in an authoritarian regime. Regardless of party, one has to asserts his/her stance confidently in a democracy.

It is the collective support and healthy open thinking in the society that keep the balance of power and competition between parties in check, thus ensuring the legitimacy of a democracy.

At the rapid rate of the society’s liberalizing under globalization, we can expect to see more people becoming more open minded and more aware of the spirit of liberal democracy.

The most notable group of such consist of those who have voted virtually here: under-21 Malaysians. They are the most active Internet users, open-minded, and ready to exercise Western liberal democracy. Moreover, the discrepancy in the voters siding is overwhelming: 90% for the opposition party PR from the U21M mock-vote data, which reflects directly my characterization of voters earlier.

I am expecting a Youth Tsunami in the next election, when this young generation comes out to vote.

In the world of political analysts, there have been debates about the actual impact of increased free information exchange to democratization. I would argue that the effect is real and positive, at least with in the case of Malaysia.

A functional and thriving democracy must encompass the intelligence and open thinking of the general population, for it is the brain to the body government. The people’s will is the basis of governance, but this will not happen unless the ‘brain’ has self-determination, that is to say, the people are aware of their rights and will, but are not ignorantly brainwashed and manipulated.

Soon, a wave of Youth Tsunami would occur. It is in fact happening now, just without sufficient momentum.

The Internet-generation however, would have limited power if they stay forever behind the keyboard. To effect change, we require real action, with real people taking to the street and voice their opinion or discontent to the government.

Peaceful demonstration is an inherent mechanism of democracy.

This is how the will of the people get heard and installed as the basis of governance.

Ironic enough, our dear leaders constantly denounce and vilify such peaceful protests as illegal and immoral, directly displaying their power addiction by claiming that the rallies are treasons aimed to overthrow the government.

Yes, the people always overthrow the government in a democracy, by voting it out. Democracy in Malaysia has lost its meaning, because the same party has been in power since independence. Such familiar feature is akin to an authoritarian regime. (I am not saying than BN is authoritarian; I would not risk myself to get arrested.)

I say Anwar Ibrahim is doing the right thing by leading the people to exercise their fundamental rights. He is activating the mechanism of demonstrations, and the turnout of the protests is astonishing. We are finally coming out on to the street to do real stuff. Bravo, Malaysians.

The will of the people is present; the demonstration mechanism is activated, but the government has yet to respond.

Given its being in power for so long, it is unlikely that such abrupt ‘revolution’ will be entertained seriously by the government. It can simply ignore and press on, or crackdown on protestors.

Why the lack of fear? Because there is no threat; there is no balance of power. The fear of defeat is the sole reason that keeps the credibility of a democratic government: if it fails the people, it loses power to the opposition.

If the government perceives that it will never suffer a defeat, it simply acts in an authoritarian manner–lack of democratic credibility. Therefore, in such situation, the will of the people can simply be ignored.

Ergo, we need something more than mere protests.

What is the real objective of Mr. Anwar, or what actions is he planning to execute; I do not know clearly yet. In whatever case, rallies will not be enough. We need some more solid action, definitely in a peaceful manner.

Some people vied for the option of a forceful overthrowing of the government. I say this action itself defeats the purpose of democracy, thus has no legitimacy.

I say we should keep tuning in and see what the leading figure, Mr. Anwar has to offer. ❧

Keng Wah Loon

A Malaysian currently studying in the U.S.

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