Nation at a crossroads: A crunch general election

After months of intense pressure, the prime minister finally succumbed to the desperate call from certain quarters for an early general election, despite the impending monsoon season.

Oct 21, 2022

live broadcast of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob is seen on a handphone screen and television October 10, 2022. (Malay Mail/Choo Choy May)

After months of intense pressure, the prime minister finally succumbed to the desperate call from certain quarters for an early general election, despite the impending monsoon season.

It is common knowledge that the so-called court cluster want an early general election as a way out of their legal troubles — no matter the cost to the people and the country. Even if it means holding an election in the midst of the monsoon season!

The wishes of 12 cabinet ministers who did not want an election this year were ignored. Many opposition MPs, activists and others too were against an early election. They felt that the focus now should be on taking care of the people’s welfare instead of an election campaign.

Many ordinary people have been struggling to recover from the lockdowns and restrictions over the last two years. The soaring cost of living too has added to the people’s pain.

The push for an early general election shows that the quest for even more power among certain quarters unfortunately supersedes the people’s wellbeing. The threat of extensive flooding around this time is real, given the terrible floods the nation experienced only last year.

Meanwhile, Parliament has not yet scrutinised the Budget, which was tabled only days before the house was dissolved — ie before the Budget could be thoroughly scrutinised. This raises a disturbing question: will the promises in the Budget now be used to induce voters?

The political instability over the last couple of years has been caused by a group of selfish politicians thinking only of their own self-interest, blinded by greed for material gain and power.

Voters will now find politicians coming around to see them to persuade them to vote for them.

But let’s not give in to their sweet-talkin’ promises so easily. Evaluate the candidates thoroughly — for after all, some of them could end up managing the country on our behalf. (Or at least that’s the theory — some politicians might end up actually serving the interests of developers, Big Business, Big Finance or Big Pharma; so we must be wary).

Voters have a crucial task in the upcoming general election. We must ask for wisdom to vote for candidates of integrity and parties that will promote a more inclusive and sustainable nation.
To evaluate the candidates contesting in your area, study their backgrounds by checking out the MP profiling website at

Study the manifestos or pledges of the various political parties. Vote for parties that will support the five points in the People’s Agenda, which has been endorsed by 57 NGOs:

1. Uphold the dignity and quality of life of the people.
2. Promote equitable, sustainable development and address the climate crisis.
3. Celebrate diversity and inclusivity.
4. Save democracy and uphold the rule of law.
5. Fight corruption and cronyism.

In addition, another initiative, the People’s Manifesto, has come up with 10 demands which they pose to the election candidates:

1. Reinstate local council elections.

2. Separate the function of the public prosecutor from that of the attorney general.

3. Empower a parliamentary select committee to scrutinise the appointments of the MACC and Election Commission chiefs.

4. Set up an independent police complaints and misconduct commission.

5. Enact a right to information law and abolish laws that suppress freedom of expression.

6. Ensure quality education, focus on raising teachers’ professionalism, increase accountability and promote inclusive education.

7. Prioritise health by raising the health ministry’s budget so that it exceeds four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) within five years [At present it is only around two per cent].

8. Support a Social Inclusion Act and progressively transform to needs-based measures.

9. Expand agricultural areas for food cultivation; give smallholder farmers a lease of at least 20 years.

10. Declare a national climate emergency and protect all forests in line with Malaysia’s commitment to the 1992 Rio Declaration.

These are the key concerns put up by civil society that they hope the political parties and candidates will address — instead of resorting to divisive racial or religious issues.

Use these key concerns as a guide when deciding who to vote for.

This election will witness millions of new voters included in the latest electoral rolls, with the implementation of automatic voter registration and the reduction of the minimum voting age from 21 years to 18. Many of these first-time voters will be youths, as well as adults who had never registered as voters before.

Given this, many newly registered voters today are likely to be apathetic, confused about the political situation, fence-sitters or those who see no point in voting given the mess that some politicians have created. Even people who have voted before are likely to be confused about the current political situation, given the many coalitions and parties that are in the fray.

So, we also have a task of raising awareness, perhaps through talks, aimed at those still in the dark about the real situation.

This will be a crucial election, given the high stakes involved, and it could well determine the direction of the country for the next decade or two. We are at a crossroads: Which way forward for Malaysia — towards a nation dominated by racial and religious exclusivity or a more inclusive, multicultural and progressive nation? That is the key question, the obstacle blocking us from debating the serious issues of the day: income and wealth inequality, corruption, discrimination, climate change.

We are called to be Salt of the Earth. So, we must never underestimate our capacity to recreate the world and build a more just society, infused with the values of the Spirit — justice, compassion, integrity, solidarity and freedom.

The task for us is to vote out the corrupt and to choose candidates of integrity, those who have the people’s wellbeing at heart, those who want to build a more inclusive society.

We are all in this together, and together, we can make a difference!

(Anil Netto is a freelance writer and activist based in Penang. He believes we are all called to build the kingdom of God in this world.)

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