Toward a Better Nation: Making Every Votes Count, Reclaim Democracy

Here is a story about Malaysia 14th general election (GE14). How we, Malaysian all work together to make sure every votes count & finally end the ruling of the same party for the very first time in 61 years of independent.

What’s is more important is that it’s a peace transition of power - no riot, no burning of cars, no drop of blood.

Preface

It’s going to be a long one. I’ve broke down this article into 5 sections. Feel free to skip those you’ve know.

  1. About Malaysia & GE14 - historical background, political situation, pre-election atmosphere
  2. Efforts in helping & funding people go back to voting (drivers & backer)
  3. Efforts in bringing back postal votes (drivers & runners)
  4. Efforts in making sure a clean & fair election (polling agents & ghost busters)
  5. The role of tech (social media & internet) in GE14
  6. Post election - Country reborn? Unsolved issues, worries & the future

Disclaimer: This article is purely based on my personal experience & involvement. The opinions are all mine - as a Malaysian, from a perspective of a Malaysian Chinese.

Thinking for quite a while on whether to pen this down - because my blog is mostly tech and this might attract unwanted attention. And I decided yes - because this is too long for a FB post & I feel strongly to do so.

1. About Malaysia & GE14

1.1 location & history

Take a look at where is Malaysia. All coloured areas is Malaysia — there are 13 states & 3 federal territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Labuan).

states & federal territories of Malaysia

Split Malaysia into half, this is how we call it:

  • Left side (like potato) — we called it West Malaysia or Peninsular.
  • Right side (Sabah, Sarawak & Labuan) — we called it East Malaysia or Borneo.

Malaysia has two independent stories:

From the above history, you can see that:

  • Malaysia have been a country with multi culture, multi racial, multi ethnic, multi colour, multi languages since day 1. We have been living together harmonically since day 1. We have rights to study in language-specific (malay, mandarin, tamil, international) government school. This is unique to the world. Therefore visiting to other countries with majority single race (Japan, Europe, China, etc) is an eye opening experience to me, vice versa.
  • BN has rule Malaysia since day 1. They have dominant power & influence in Malaysia. This cause many problems later.

1.2 opposition parties in early day

We do have a few opposition parties since early day. In fact, there’s one time (3rd general election) opposition parties made gains at the expense of BN. That day is 13 May 1969, a dark day in the history of Malaysia. We taught since young not to talk & discuss about it, it’s a fear & pain for all elder people(especially Chinese). A racial riot happened on that day, people got killed, most victims are Chinese. You can read more about the incident here. In summary, the power goes back to BN immediately and since then people are scared, fear about change. BN has continue to rule the country till today (oops, till 9th May 2018).

1.3 recent history

It is also BN strategy to divide and conquer (by races), widen the race gaps, controlling media freedom, implement law to make it easier to put those with different voices to jail. Threaten Chinese during every election with messages like you don’t want to repeat the history, there’ll be no Chinese ministers, Chinese will be left out if you don’t vote us.

The strategies work till recent years — till we have internet & social media. Information flows like never before. People, especially the younger generation (many, including me don’t go through the dark day before) have more medium to receive both sides of news, and less fear of change.

We feel the corruptions and the bias & unfairness of the current government. We want a better nation. There’s when NGO initiative like Bersih (clean election) start. Many came out & start to rally peacefully on street, all races including Chinese which usually remains silent due to fear.

Bersih rally

Since the last 2 election, BN start losing more and more seats. The former UMNO (vector party in BN) leaders go against BN.

News on election cheating pop up— ghost voters, blackout(fake news, though), biased Election Commission (EC), etc. The corruption & misuse of power cases like 1MDB, NFC, death of Teoh Beng Hock, death of Altantuya, jailed of Anwar, luxury life of first lady raise the emotion of the people like never before.

Remember the last GE, the first thing our former Prime Minister Najib said after the election is blaming Chinese “What do Chinese want?”, trying to give the perception of Chinese vs Malay fight.

Result of last election GE13 is interesting, while BN win more parliament seats to form government (140 vs 82), but they lose in term of popular vote:

  • BN 47.3% popular votes
  • Opposition 50.87% of popular votes.

There we have a government that not represent the majority of people. This👆set the stage for this election GE14.

1.4 gerrymandering in GE14

In this election, the EC sets the election day at weekday which many angry about that. It is perceived as an act to reduce the number of people to cast their votes, because many people work in cities, need to apply leaves & arrange transportation to vote. Think about east Malaysian that work in KL, it takes time to go back, need to get flight ticket, it involves $. Less people vote is favour to BN as BN has lower support rate in cities.

The re-delineation done by EC is favour to BN too. To give you an example, my parliament P124 Bandar Tun Razak, is a hot seat, it initially consist of 53 % Malay, 40% Chinese, 7% Indian. However, due to gerrymandering, the composition became 61 % Malay, 29% Chinese and 8% Indian, note that the Chinese voters ratio drops tremendously. Majority Chinese are moved to another Chinese-majority parliament P123 Cheras. Why? It’s because P123 is a seat that BN never ever win. BN believes that the lose is due to Chinese. By cutting the Chinese votes, BN should stand a better chance in winning the seat. Same situation happen to other parliament seats like Petaling Jaya, Klang, etc.

EC supposes to be independent, but clearly it’s not. It’s even more obvious during the election day (which we’ll talk about it later in this article).

1.5 contestants in GE14

Two major coalitions went head to head in GE14. the long time winner Barisan National (BN) vs Pakatan Harapan (PH).

PH coalition is very interesting. It consists of the following major parties:

  • PPBM led by 4th prime minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir (TDM), note that current prime minister is Najib, the 7th PM. TDM was once BN-UMNO president, well known for his dictator style leadership, banning media freedom & implement racist policies, divide & conquer.
  • PKR led by our 4th deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (DSAI). DSAI was also once BN-UMNO top management, a racist, right hand person of TDM, until he messed up with TDM, then later sent to jail due to sodomy conviction (well, rumours said that he is innocent, jailed by TDM). Then came out of jail, but sent to jail for sodomy conviction again by our 7th PM, Najib (well again, rumours said that he is innocent).
  • DAP led by the long run politician Lim Kiat Siang (LKS) and the son Lim Guan Eng (LGE). Both LKS and LGE have been sent to jail before during TDM presidency (well, rumours said that jailed by TDM).
  • AMANAH led by Mat Sabu, formerly member of Islam-extremist party, PAS. Split out since last election, Mat Sabu is a moderate Islam.

Do you see the interesting parts?

  • DAP and PKR leaders are once very against TDM, been accused & sent to jail by TDM for multiple times. They are enermies to each other. Now enermies decided to work together - for a better nation, according to them. What a wow right?
  • DSAI and TDM are once have very bad image among Chinese as they implements many racist policies. DSAI image is kind of better in recent years. Lots of Chinese is not very comfortable with the joining of TDM in the PH coalition due to what he did in the past. Of course, not just Chinese, some people from other races feel the same way too.
  • Some people said, it’s like a race between two bad apples, you have no better choice but to choose one. That’s why there is a movement call #undiRosak this time, to urge people boycott the GE, by spoiling their votes.
  • Also, despite some people lose faith in opposition, there are many believe that with TDM joining plus DSAI, it could cause “Malay tsunami” — together there’s hope to ditch BN.
  • Majority people I know focus on possibility on ditching BN. Many think that this is the last chance to ditch BN because all the opposition leaders are quite old already — TDM is 92 y/o, DSAI is 70 y/o, LKS is 77 y/o. Among the younger new leaders, there’s no one yet able to replace them.
  • TDM has many promotional videos during this election, building positive image of an old man forced to return to save Malaysia, building a better future for everyone. This tactic certainly works, much better than BN threatening strategy.

2. Efforts in helping & funding people go back to voting

The Election Commission (EC) announce the election date (May 9) on April 10. It is one month before the election. Couldn’t blame that the election date is short, but it might screw up people travel plan. It screws up mine.

2.1 me getting support to come back

I’ve purchase flight tickets to US for attending 3 conferences. Two of the conferences date clash with election day:

a. Microsoft Build (May 7-9) which cost $2,495 (I’ve got sponsored).

b. Google I/O (May 8-10), which cost $1000 (I’ve got sponsored too).

Both conferences are rare chance to get sponsored. I decided to let go — only attending one day of Microsoft Build (May 7), and forgoing Google I/O conference, come back & vote.

In order to come back on time (May 9, voting close at 5pm), I need to take a flight latest by May 8 midnight, Seattle time (GMT -7). Unfortunately, the airline of my existing return ticket doesn’t has matched schedule on May 7 nor May 8.

This 👆 left me with 2 options to either, a) change flight to May 6 (missed both conferences) or, b) purchase a new return ticket on May 7/8. Checking with booking company on option a, changing of flight date cost additional fees, end up not much different from purchasing a new one. So b option it is, I don’t want to miss the conference too.

I have the determination to come back & vote, but my wallet said otherwise. So I posted in Facebook, trying my luck to ask for funding.

Within 24 hours, I’ve got the amount I need and it’s all from my friends (people that I know personally). I am very surprise and feeling touched by the support I’ve got. It’s unexpected.

Booked a flight ticket at the price of RM 2300 on May 8, 1.50am. All set, I’ll come back!

2.2 community initiatives of funding others / carpooling

There are initiatives like #pulangMengundi, #undiRabu & a couple of Facebook groups like #CarpoolGE14 aims to help enable people to go home & vote by

  • carpooling — matching volunteer drivers with passengers
  • subsidies — matching public backer with receivers for transportation support (flight fare, etc.)
  • buses — free bus services for people to go home vote.

Here is an article talk about all these efforts

Here is a sample Facebook post which my friend pledge to sponsor flight.

3. Efforts in bringing back postal votes

The EC is doing a bad job in handling postal votes from overseas. Many people receive their ballot paper very last minute (also quite a few cases receive the ballot after the election date 😠).

Due to the last minute ballot, there is no way to post the votes back on time, because no courier promised the vote will reach on time by May 9, 5pm even you are willing to pay. The only way to send back the votes is by human, hand-carry it back.

With that, another Facebook group “GE14 postal vote discussion” formed on around May 1, aims to help people bring back their oversea votes on time.

3.1 ministers talk nonsense about oversea voters

As a minister, your words matter. People listen to you. think before you talk.

Our deputy prime minister on that time, Mr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi asks Malaysian aboard to don’t vote if you can’t get leave.

When oversea Malaysian are worries about their votes won’t get back in time, another brainless minister deputy home minister, Nur Jazlan Mohamed (who later lose badly on his parliament seat in Pulai), responded by saying that people should not get “excited” as postal voters only make up a small percentage of overall voters (less than 0.1%).

While Nur Jazlan probably speaking that logically and it might be the fact (probably, he might did some study before), but it’s every Malaysian right to vote, and it’s the government duty to make sure all votes count & valued.

Both of you, as ministers should be more sensitive, be empathetic, help the people out instead of talking nonsense, in a totally wrong timing. Don’t you know the quote, “if you have nothing nice to say, please don’t say nothing at all”, my friend?

3.2 my involvement in bringing back votes from US

I didn’t know about the postal vote situation until my friend Patrick Yong told me (because I were in US already that time, busy with my activities, not checking Malaysia news). He suggests me to find out how to volunteer.

I then message Global Bersih, and they redirected me to the Facebook group “GE14 postal vote discussion”. Shortly after I post about my availability on May 6, my inbox flooded with messages, also busy checking Facebook comments that others mentioned me, trying to match me with others Malaysian in US, also helping in matching some of them to another runners from NYC and SFO.

I was in Seattle that time for Microsoft Build conference. People from different cities in US (Dallas, Houston, NYC, Portland, etc) contacted me, some would like to try sending me courier. Unfortunately, many of their ballots reached at May 7 afternoon (damn, EC 😠), not possible for same day courier.

Was in contact with Timothy Goh as well, he is helping to group San Francisco votes. The plan changed from courier me the votes from SF, to flying someone to pass me the votes, till they pool fund to send someone back to Malaysia. Haha.

At the end, only those that within driving distance to Seattle able to send their votes to me — Oregon, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver. When I said driving distance, it’s not close, some require 2–4 hours drive one way.

All of the votes reach to me at May 7, after 9pm

. My flight is May 8, 1.50am. Shanti, from Portland, help to pick up Aurora votes from Oregon, then drive to meet me. Another voter, PC Quah offered me a free ride to Seattle airport after passing me his vote. Do you see how friendly Malaysian is! (total forgot about my mother advise on do not simply sit on stranger’s car 😝)

Shanti & PC Quah pass me their vote, I am witness for Shanti vote!

Reach at airport around 11pm, waiting for another girl Fion, driving from Vancouver, Canada. She doesn’t receive her ballot on time. She drove all the way just to pass me another Alor Setar guy - Lin Cheah’s vote, because Lin doesn’t has US visa. She doesn’t know the way to Seattle, fully depend on GPS to guide her, just to make a stranger’s vote count (she doesn’t know Lin). Thanks God she reach on time & safely, though she got a speed summon. Then, she drove all the way back to Vancouver at 12am+.

PC Quah, me, Fion meet at the airport.

My flight is Seattle — Taipei — Kuala Lumpur. Please note that at the point of boarding Seattle flight, PC Quah & Lin Cheah have yet found any runners to deliver it to the voting station — Penang & Alor Setar. The plan is to send the votes back to KL first.

My flight will reach at KL airport at the voting day itself - May 9, 11.15am. They continue to source for runners in Facebook to pick up the votes from me at KLIA and deliver it to Penang & Alor Setar (Please look at the map again to see how far is Alor Setar & KL, it’s far).

Other coordinators like Shu Woan, Francis Lui, Timothy Goh also helping them in sourcing and arranging runners. All these efforts started out in small group level, then merge into a bigger team to work more effectively. (e.g. Francis Lui was helping in arranging New Zealand votes only & Timothy is SF only, then found out that the found runners of both teams can be shared and grouped across for more effective last mile delivery).

There are two other US runners — Dorene Seah from SF & Hui Xin from NYC.

Dorene Seah booked her flight ticket only about 3 hours before the flight (coz the initial plan was to courier me the votes). She applied for leaves immediately (emergency leaves 😆), I admire her determination and last minute packing skill!

Hui Xin, friend of Janice Shiu had a flight to come back KL from NYC. Janice Shiu contacted me at Facebook initially to ask for help(sending back her postal vote) but NYC is too far and she only got her vote on May 7 as well. Connected her with a couple of NYC people that contacted me, hoping that they will find a runner together. Not too long after that, Janice found out that her friend Hui Xin is flying back, great! She then broadcast the message and collect all NYC and neighbour cities. Again, how helpful Malaysian is, enabling each others, trying to make every votes count.

So happen, without special arrangement, all three of the US runners — Dorene, Hui Xin & me shared the same Taipei — Kuala Lumpur flight. We (Hui Xin & me) met at check-in, less than 1 hour for next flight, had short calls with Francis Lui, Timothy Goh & Shu Woan on the votes arrangement.

We met Dorene only after boarding the flight as she’s running late. Both me & Hui Xin don’t really know Dorene’s face. Can only sense Dorene by eye contact. Haha, I’m glad it works! We look at each other and we know we are the runners (six sense it is!). 😙

After the flight take off, we found 3 empty seats in a row (luckily it’s not a full flight) & start grouping the votes. We don’t have enough bags to group the votes, so we use the blanket plastic bags (asking other passengers to tear off their blanket plastic nicely) & vomit bag (yes, the paper bag for vomit) to group the votes by parliaments & areas. 😜

Dorene, me, Hui Xin in flight, grouping votes

The plan after reached at KL is -

  • Dorene to took a ride to Johor immediately— her postal votes and other Johor votes(Muar, Bakri, JB & Terbau) are with her.
  • Me to meet up with Kuantan, Kedah runner immediately — because Kuantan is far, runner need to drive to there asap. Then meet with Klang / Pandan runners to pass them the votes. Then go home to vote myself physically.
  • Hui Xin to meet up with Emily immediately, because Emily will need to rush to another airport in Subang, there is a runner taking flight at 1.30pm to Penang / Alor Setar and pass the votes to Penang / Alor Setar runners. She also tasked to passing votes to PJ, Perak runners and other runners which meet at the same meeting point. Then she go home to vote herself physically.

If you are interested to see how the Muar votes flow, Dorene wrote about it:

If you are interested to see how a vote flow from Vancouver to Alor Setar, Lin Cheah (Vancouver)& Me (US runner) & Yunn Tan (Penang runner) posted about that, each has different amount of details on each steps.

  1. Lin Cheah: from receiving ballot at Vancouver till finding runners https://www.facebook.com/groups/149879602532472/permalink/153191495534616/ (require to login in fb)
  2. Jecelyn Yeen: from US to KL airport

3. Yunn Tan: final leg, from Penang Airport to Alor Setar

https://www.facebook.com/groups/149879602532472/permalink/150279822492450/ (require to login in fb)

3.3 other initiatives on sending back postal votes

There are a lot of stories on how overseas sending back their votes.

A few Malaysians in Houston trying their luck by showing up at the airport, asking around for help. And they met a Malaysian pilot that offer help to send back their votes!

There are too many stories to share, team Australia, New Zealand, UK, Germany, etc.

You may also request to join a FB group call GE14: The Amazing Race Stories to read more.

All these stories pump me up and making me feel emotional. Initially I would like to come back & vote because I feel the delineation is unfair & I should vote as a Malaysian citizen. People around me helped to fund me & fund others, that actions add weights to my vote.

Then, all people in overseas, seeing them making efforts, taking time, go through all the hardship just to make their votes count, added even more weights to my vote. I feel like coming back is a 200% right decision & so so worth it although I missed my favourite conference!

4. Efforts in making sure a clean & fair election

Since our EC is strongly influenced by the ruling party, we, the people are on our own to try our best to make sure the election is clean & fair.

Many of my friends signed up to become PACABA. PACABA stands for polling agent, Counting agent & Barung agent. Many NGO & opposition parties offer PACABA training. I signed to become one initially, but too bad I’m away in US.

Seeing PACABA work tirelessly — my friends Hugo, Siew Hwa, Patrick, Heather, and all other PACABA which I don’t know making sure we have legit votes, make me feel really proud.

There are some unsung heroes act as ghost busters at the polling stations. What is “ghost” 👻 and what is ghost buster? There are people reporting that they never register before but their name show up in the registered list, some in totally different area. Also there are rumours that they are non-Malaysian acting as Malaysian, vote or voting on other people behalf, or voting for death people. Those are “ghost”. Ghost busters are individuals that trying to spot these people.

(Sorry, no photos!)

5. The role of tech (social media & internet) in GE14

As you read until this point, you can see how powerful social media (mainly Facebook) is in influencing & foster the effort.

In positive side, Facebook open up new channel for opposition to make their voice heard. No longer single side story we received via traditional controlled medium — printed newspaper, government TV channels. Of course, BN campaign with social media as well. Not only Facebook, but Youtube as well.

Opposition strategy is mainly viral posts, whether they paid for it or not, I’m not sure, but I have many friends who tirelessly share out opposition side of news — be it true or fake, sometimes I feel those posts are too over, but I guess subconsciously I might be impacted & influenced, I use the word “might”, because it’s subconscious 😆 (consciously I won’t).

Less people sharing out BN post in my circle. When they do, it would either be a sarcastic post or negative news on BN. Of course, I am pretty sure they will be others people that receive the other side of stories all the time, pro-BN and negative news on PH.

BN strategy on media is 💰💰💰. They made a lot of Youtube videos and Facebook posts. Everytime I open Youtube, definitely will see #najib videos, BN politician faces or definitely promotional video on any parties of BN. Facebook marketing as well, sponsored post showing the BN contestant page, begging for like.

It make me feel annoyed & wondering about how much money BN spent on this rather than making me feel like voting them. You should fire your digital marketing agent / strategist. I’m sorry but just by pouring money doesn’t work.

Apart from that, Facebook friends circle, Facebook group, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp are the places that make all communications & collaborations of car pooling, funding & volunteers to bring back postal votes possible. Mark Zuckerberg, Malaysia owe you a thank you.

The #deleteFacebook movement & Cambridge Analytica scandal certainly have very less impact in Malaysia. It’s still a very active platform.

The internet make it possible for Malaysian to follow the latest news & real time voting result. Many website offer latest dashboard to view latest GE14 news and real time voting result. https://undi.info/ & https://election.thestar.com.my/ are among those I found which are good. https://undi.info/ use AWS S3 for hosting, fast & reliable. The official EC result board sucks — http://pru14.spr.gov.my, not pretty, not even responsive, mobile friendly, oh my.

Live video streaming like Youtube Live and Facebook Live enable us to get first hand info on any announcement including the swearing-in of Prime Minister. Real-time & stable 👍.

6. Post election

Yay, we ditch BN finally. What’s next? Forming of federal government & state government.

6.1 the stats

The image below show the states won by different parties / coalition. Red — PH, Blue — BN, Green — PAS.

ge14 result

Below is the parliament seats won by different parties / coliation. Blue — BN, Red — PH, Green — PAS, Grey — Others

Parliamental seats

The number of voters who voted in GE14 was 82.32%, or 12,299,514 out of the total number of 14,940,624 registered voters. Pretty good turnout.

Below is the voters age group. Malaysians aged 21–39 made up 41% of the total registered voters (by age) this GE14! Pretty good sign that youngster nowadays is more daring, hah.

voter percentage by age group

6.2 thoughts, issues & future

I am glad that PH doesn’t win all and BN still win decent. It’s because what I am, or majority people looking forward is two strong parties / coalition are able to rule and control each other.

Sadly, there are many political 🐸, trying to jump from BN to PH. That is not a healthy. People vote for new government, new hope, not BN 2.0.

There are also many issues to be resolved,

  • Appoint cabinet — giving there are 4 parties involve, how to handle the distribution of power
  • Corruptions & mega projects — review & investigate on those
  • Economy — Abolish GST as promised? Eye on you
  • Inexperience in running government — Many leaders in PH have no experience in running government. Hope they can run it well, and stop behave like opposition — no shouting & mocking opponent, people first.
  • A Malaysian government for Malaysian — stop spreading racist news, implementing race based policies. Both TDM and DSAI have track records on being racism in past & DAP is also been view as racist party, therefore need to watch them out. Making sure it’s truly Malaysian government for Malaysian.

Final

I am happy, same as all Malaysian. I see all Malaysian united as one, making this change possible. Let’s work together for better tomorrow. 🇲🇾🇲🇾🇲🇾

our national anthem