On Voting

May 5, 2013 marked Malaysia's 13th General Elections (GE13). May 13, 2013, meanwhile, will mark The Philippines' Midterm Elections. There, senators, house representatives, provincial and local officials will be voted in. Now keeping up with GE13 is like watching a triller-action-drama-suspense film all rolled into one. Keeping up with the midterm voting, on the other hand, is like... okay, I've got to be honest here. I haven't really been keeping up with the elections of what is supposed to be my motherland.

I haven't been tuning in because: 1) I've given up hope in claiming my overseas voters' ballot; 2) it's not the Presidential Elections yet so I guess I could be excused; and 3) Malaysian politics is so much more exciting. I know, I am such a good Filipino citizen.

Back in 2009, I registered with a group of friends as an Overseas Absentee Voter in Malaysia. The 2010 Presidential elections were coming up. However, I wasn't that politically informed so I just tagged along for the sake of tagging along. I had no idea how we were supposed to vote but I did want to be considered as an official voter. We filled in a couple of forms and then went home. And then May 10, 2010 came and went. I didn't know that the embassy had sent my ballot to my dorm a month before the elections so there too went my opportunity to use my right to suffrage.

This January, my parents came by, bringing my voter's id which the COMELEC had sent to my home address. This reminded me of my whole 2009/2010 non-voting history. I made up my mind to let my voice be heard and vote in the upcoming 2013 elections. 

And then I looked at the address written in my voter's ID. Kolej Pendeta Za'ba. Uhh, right. That would mean they would sending my ballot to my address from a long, long time ago.

And they did. So how? I haven't been going to Bangi very frequently - I've only driven up to UKM twice since I got my driver's license. If only I could cast my vote at The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. But that would mean taking an additional leave...

Thus I let that matter come to a rest and focused on GE13 instead.

Oh but doing so suddenly made me want to use my voting rights to make even a small difference to my Philippines, dear Philippines. 

As of 3:29AM this morning, the final tally pointed to Malaysia's now 56-year ruling party as the winner of GE13. Good news? Not so good news? Well, a lot of Malaysian's are at unrest, accusing the party of bringing in phantom voters, buying votes by paying for plane tickets, and even causing a blackout during the last ballot counting hours. And they didn't really win by a landslide or anything like that. One columnist asserts that the results should move the winning party (as well as the one/s that didn't win) to do some serious soul-searching if they want to count this victory as a true win.

And so this episode is still caught in a cliffhanger. But Malaysia's fighting spirit has taken me quite aback. There are those still fighting for a progressive stability. There are others still fighting for an untested radical change. It's difficult to pick sides but amazingly, 80% of 13.3 million registered voters did, the highest ever recorded in a general election in Malaysia. I read news yesterday about an elderly man who died on the spot having fainted while queuing in one of the polling centres. I read news about people getting beaten up because they were accused of being phantom voters (i.e. not really Malaysians but were given IC's just so they could vote). I read a lot of things proving that Malaysians are not as apathetic as Malaysian jokes made them out to be. Can we then take this as a challenge to make our votes count, mga kababayan ko?

In 2010, we were able to have a 75% turnout, the 38 million votes being the highest recorded since 1978 (why oh why didn't I let myself be part of that number???). What will the turnout for 2013 be, I wonder? True it's not the main elections. But our choice of senators, house representatives, and local officials should matter.

I'm grateful that today was declared as a holiday because it gave me the opportunity to take a long overdue drive to UKM to grab my ballot from my old dormitory's mailbox. I would have to do some cramming before I put in my party and senators of choice (yep, that's how informed I am) but I still have time until next Monday.

The political situation in Malaysia has pushed me to become more aware of my own country's and for that I am grateful.

So - and this is where I get corny - let's vote in!

I need to change my registered address soon.


At Za'ba. Wearing my KPZ shirt.