A third choice?

Decisions are one of the things that we do most everyday, whether we notice it or not. From very small decisions like what to wear and what to eat; to huge decisions such as which job to apply, which car or house to buy.

Whether it is making simple day-to-day decisions or big decisions in life, we make decisions based on valid reasons.

When we make decision on what time to take a shower very much depending on what time we have to go to work or what time is our appointment. 

When we are to decide what to eat for lunch, depends on what is available at that time, what does our tastebuds love or maybe when it is during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, then we have to take vegetarian food.

These are much simpler decisions that we make daily, but it still has a valid reason and choices out there.

Making bigger decisions might require longer and more in-depth process though, for example when we buy a car.

The first thought is usually the budget, how much can we afford the car. Then we consider the practicality of it, whether how big our family is, what kind of terrain to we usually drive by, do we carry a lot of things daily, or how efficient is the after-sales service of the company?

We will also look into the technical aspects; how fast can the car go, is it cost-efficient when it comes to petrol, is it environmental-friendly, does it connects to my handheld-device, and many other things.

Or some may decide more on the aesthetic part of it, such as the design, the colour, the type of the rim or the lights.

This of course, comes with a lot of choices. 

But when we decide on who is our representative in the Parliament and State Assembly; and who to govern our country, do we have choices?

Since the first general election in 1955, there is only one coalition that won the majority of the Parliament seats in the country and rules the Government, which is the Alliance, and subsequently formed the Barisan Nasional.

There was a sudden shock for the ruling party in 1969 where they lost a significant number of seats although they still remain as the Government; until in the 1990s that we see a stronger opposition coalition beginning to start-up. Then, it was the Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah and Gagasan Rakyat that came out to contest against Barisan Nasional. The coalition subsequently breaks up though and some of the parties came up with Barisan Alternatif to run against the ruling party in the 1999 and 2004 general elections.

The opposition coalition kept evolving and grew into Pakatan Rakyat; then Pakatan Harapan, and as we all knew it, they won in the 2018 general elections.

Since the 2008 general elections, Malaysians made a two-party system came true, whereby we have a significant strength among the opposition Member of Parliaments.

Despite all the scandals, corruption and negativity in politics; I think the political scenario gives a good hope for democracy in Malaysia. From having only one significant choice of a political party; we have grown to a two stronger choices of political parties.

But are we able to grow even further in democracy by having more stronger political parties in Malaysia? Do we have more choices when it comes to choosing who to represent us in the Dewan Rakyat? Do we really want just a two party system where we are forced to vote either one of the two which may not be suitable?

A third choice may sound ideal, but is it able to grow in our country? 

Usually, third parties face an uphill battle in terms of electoral success due to political system in a democratic country like Malaysia. Even in instances where the potential supporter may align themselves most with a certain third party, in the face of overwhelming odds against impacting an election, it makes more sense just to stay home or back a coalition party in compromise.

Growing into a stronger two-party system has also created more political bickering than ever in our country. Politicians are quarreling and criticizing each other just because they are not from the same party. Due to the strength of both coalition, the petty bickering seems non-stopping. The Government has forgotten about their responsibility of ruling, and the opposition has forgotten about their role of monitoring. What these two huge coalition focuses is to topple each other in the next general elections. 

Probably it is high time that we advocate for a stronger third party to arise. A third choice to remind the roles of the Government and the opposition. A third choice to remind that we have to make the country better, and not the political party better.

When we choose to buy a car and a house, we consider with so much details and choices. I think the same should be done when we choose who to govern our country.

What truly matters is not which party controls the government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 8th October 2019.