April 20, 2017
By Salahuddin Hisham
IN a recent gathering of social media activists, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak told the audience to go on the offensive, giving the clearance that nothing is sacred.
It was not to retaliate with an eye for an eye to the under-handed personal attacks levelled at him but to inspire the audience to not be over-defensive. As the general election approaches, what is important is outcome and not output of their effort.
Online political activists can easily get carried away in returning fake news, false facts, and spin propaganda by the opposition with one of their own. As the English proverb goes, all’s fair in love and war. It is unavoidable for people in love and soldiers at wartime to not be bound by rules of fair play.
And, political campaign strategies closely resemble battle strategies.
It would be naïve to ignore the fact that popularity and voters’ acceptance mean everything to win seats and be representative in Parliament or State Assembly.
Candidate’s personal resume or track record in public service will always be an advantage. An incumbent or known personality will more likely win.
It is all part of the packaging in the pursuit of power.
Nevertheless, the play for power should not downplay the important fact that politics is activities ssociated with governance of a country or a geographical area.
Political campaign will inevitably mean attacking the other side, promoting the strength of their candidate, and keeping any weakness and more so, scandals under the lid.
It is up to voters to consider the issues posed by the various contending parties. There should be political maturity to limit campaign to issues of relevance and importance to the constituency and country.
Political campaign or propaganda should not be excessiv on an opposing candidate’s character or in discriminating the history of the political party represented.
Any campaign on character should be related to matter of governance.
In Malaysia, it is common for political campaigns to raise corruption issues associated with the other side.
Corruption is a personal issue and it reflects the trustworthiness of candidates. It should rationally not be overblown beyond personal shortcomings.
Voters should focus on government policies and effective implementation of the policies. The most important public policy that voters should look into is economics, on which their livelihood is dependent on.
However, economic policies should not be judged by the goodies government can offer to the poor and rural folks.
Parties with a clear plan to solve current problems, and place proper structures of the economy to safeguard the economic interest of the country and plan the future livelihood for the next generation should be given the votes.
Popular economic policies may turn out to be detrimental to the long-term economic well-being of the country. The bitter policies of today will turn out sweet later on.
Economic management is made more complex with stiff competition and fast changing in today’s globalised world. At times, it is no more a matter of putting the right polices, but to make the country more agile to respond to the ever-changing variables and anticipating the right trend.
Old school economic thinking based on past models is no longer relevant. In the world today, economic and diplomacy are separated by a thin line.
In facing up to current thinking, voters need political maturity not to be swayed by negative campaign that lacks any specific plan, if not a comprehensive plan, for the country.
Governance is always about prioritising, allocation of limited resources and solution choices between current needs and long-term strategic interest. That needs intelligent and wise leaders to weigh the options for the maximum impact.
The effectiveness and commitment of leaders should be the criteria by which voters judge them.
At candidate level, the choice of a representative in a rationally mature constituency should be those that can express the concern of the constituency to the respective houses.
Ideally, a representative should give priority to constituency interest in voting for new laws, the annual budget, and policies.
The biggest mistake a constituency make is to vote a candidate who happens to be standing there for a long time. If certain candidate does not serve the constituency well, he or she has to be replaced.
Choosing a candidate with great oratorical skill and warm personality will only leave constituents entertained.
Naturally, the different profile of constituency will have different needs, demands, and priorities. The local politicians and candidates will need to appreciate that.
If one were to apply religion to politics, similar criteria apply.
Politics in Islam is termed as siasah and it stressed also on governance. The fundamental basis of Islamic governance is justice.
Islam does not put much emphasis on the form of government. It can be a monarchy, democracy or any combination. A just government with a wise leader is what matters most.
Looking at the public debate on the amendment of Act 355 on syriah law, there was misinformation applied to the fullest to accuse it as hudud law. It is a lie since the limited punishment will not make it hudud.
The subsequent presumptuous claims, name calling, and slander including unsubstantiated accusation of money politics saw Malaysian politics yet again rear its ugly head as the general election comes near.
Manipulation of issues to invoke emotional reaction demeans democracy.
The practice of democracy respects the right of individuals to express themselves with full respect on the opinions of others.
There should be no emotion of hatred, or anger or prejudice involved in the practice of democracy. It means voters should weigh in the issues rationally between micro-local interest, macro-national interest, and futuristic interest of the next generation.
The contending parties should have a comprehensive idea of where to bring the country forward.
Voters should have the political maturity and wisdom to reject candidates capable only nitpicking on selective weakness and shortcomings to make it viral and lose sight of the bigger picture.
Political parties of one or two contentious issues without anything to offer the country should not even be given a wink.