I’m a Malaysian citizen who’s been living in Switzerland since I married my German husband two and a half years ago. Ever since I made the move to Europe, though, I’ve been keeping an eye on the political situation back in my native country. Earlier this year, when it became apparent that a general election was imminent, I flew back to Malaysia 6,200 miles away just so that I could vote.
Unfortunately, after my arrival, the Government decided to hold off on calling the new election, so when I couldn’t wait any longer I flew back to Zurich only to hear the news that Prime Minister Najib Razak had dissolved Parliament. Soon after that the date of the new election was set: May 5. So I turned around and flew back to Malaysia.
Yeah, it’s crazy. But I’m not the only one. Many of my compatriots in Malaysia’s far-flung expat community it’s estimated that there are around one million of us around the world did the same thing. That’s a reflection of how high the stakes were in the these elections and how strongly many of us wanted to vote for change.
I don’t think it’s a good thing when one group of people run a country for so long, and that I believe we desperately need change. In my own life as a Malaysian I’ve experienced far too much in the way of discrimination, injustice, bureaucracy, and inefficiency. And I don’t want others who live in Malaysia to go through the same things.
The 2013 general election (or “GE13,” as Malaysians liked to call it) is shaped up to be one of the most decisive battles in the country’s modern history. The ruling National Front Coalition (Barisan Nasional or BN) has run Malaysia for the past 56 years. The opposition People’s Pact (Pakatan Rakyat or PR) believes that the chance may have finally come to challenge BN’s hold on power.
I don’t think it’s important to tell you which candidates I voted for. Suffice it to say that I don’t think it’s a good thing when one group of people run a country for so long, and that I believe we desperately need change. In my own life as a Malaysian I’ve experienced far too much in the way of discrimination, injustice, bureaucracy, and inefficiency. And I don’t want others who live in Malaysia to go through the same things.
So why not just vote absentee? Can’t I just sign up to send in my vote by mail? Why do I need to go to the trouble of taking a sixteen-hour flight just so that I can be there in person at the polling place? After all, there’s plenty of evidence that the Government won’t shy away from tampering with the vote even if you’re physically present in Malaysia.
It should be noted that this is the first time in Malaysia’s history that citizens living overseas had the chance to vote (with the exception of some Malaysians in a few other Southeast Asian countries). But very few only about 0.6 per cent actually signed up to vote absentee. Thousands decided instead to return home solely for the election.
Malaysian Sam Khor and his wife paid flight penalty and postponed their trip to stay back not even to vote, but to register as counting agents to monitor and report malpractices.