On May 9, Malaysia had its 14th General Elections and probably the most historic election ever after the first in 1955 before independence on 1957. This is the first win of the Opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan, that competed with the kleptocratic government of the Barisan Nasional party that ruled for nearly 60 years. This general election was destined to make history.
If the existing government wins, Barisan Nasional would be the longest-ruling party to run a government in the world. If the opposition wins, it would be a first revamp for this nation, and the opposition, led by former 4th Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, would be the oldest Prime Minister in the world at the age of 92.
The people were tired of the scandals revolving around the Prime Minister and his wife that not only involved them personally but also the country’s financial stake which obviously has to do with the people’s tax dollars. One of the famous scandals that became the talk of the world was the 1MDB scandal that even Malaysians don’t have solid answer to. It has indeed affected how the country is now seen in the eyes of the world.
During the election campaign, Barisan Nasional (as the ruling government) had dominated all forms of media: billboards, Youtube ads, TV commercials, etc. The national news only portrayed manifestos and the candidates of the government. The opposition had to turn to social media such as Facebook and Twitter to spread their manifestos and their thoughts to the people. It wasn’t hard for them to gain attention and followers because of most members and candidates of the Opposition were easily connected and socially engaged with the people — especially millennials — long before the election. When the president of the government party was giving a speech on live TV, the Opposition party did a Facebook Live to let the people watch and catch up. The viewers of the Opposition speech reportedly peaked at 200,000 — probably a conservative estimate. The media nowadays is more audience controlled than before; the people can easily choose what they want to consume. The Opposition party surely has a strong influence if 200, 000 Malaysians chose to watch their speeches during the election campaign.
The people needed answers, the people needed change. Harapan means ‘hope’ in Malay; the people can see their hopes through the opposition team. Pakatan Harapan won this 14th General Election, but the results were announced at 4:40 AM, 10 May, which was much later than the previous elections where the results were announced as early as 9 PM on the same day. The nation stayed up and sacrificed their nights’ sleep because they didn’t want to miss the historic win. A lot of controversies lurked because of the late announcement, but the nation was grateful that we could welcome our former 4th Prime Minister, the Father of Modernization into the office as our 7th Prime Minister once again. I was 3 years old when Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (also known as Tun M) resigned as Prime Minister, leaving all his great ideas behind; I never thought that I would be living under his wings again.
As a result of the elections, Malaysia also welcomes a lot of positive changes in the government. We welcome our first ever female Deputy Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, which is the biggest win for us women and girls because finally it proved that a woman is capable to hold one of the highest positions in the government, leading all parts of the society. ‘
We also have two young members of the Parliament on board: Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman representing Muar, Johor at the age of 25; and the youngest member in Malaysian political history, law student P. Prabakaran, 22, representing Batu, Kuala Lumpur. Syed Saddiq has been popular among youngsters on social media platforms as he openly accepts and discusses ideas with the youth. P. Prabakaran also depended on social media for his election campaign as he is a fully independent candidate.
There were also a few issues that have been brought up after the win, but what caught my eye the most is the freedom of media. The media locally and internationally should be free to report on any news, politically, economically and socially. The media should be free to be neutral and tell off the wrongs in the country, even though it is from the government itself. Local celebrities have been opening up about what they had to deal with the previous government, including being called off for posting a picture with political figures from the Opposition, being unable to openly choose their side and announcing it to the public, and sometimes being forced to show their loyalty to the previous government party.
This didn’t happen only to celebrities but also corporate businessmen as well. Knowing that Tun M is free to accept criticism and will answer all doubts of the people and controversies surrounding him from his previous rule until he is a Prime Minister once again, we hope that the freedom of media and speech is returned as how it was promised before.
In conclusion, the 14th General Elections has surely made Malaysia turn over a new leaf. New aspirations, new faces, new hope. However, here’s a slight reminder for all Malaysians out here: the government has changed, but we are the ones who engineered the change. We should not only support but also change our ways of seeing and doing things for the better, towards a new, improved Malaysia.