Pop-quiz democracy

Sanne van Oosten

“Malaysian prime minister drops hint of election date”, now that’s a headline you wouldn’t see in many other places. Drop a hint? Isn’t that something that is calculated through when the last elections were? Think again, in Malaysia the prime minister prefers that the elections are a pop-quiz, you don’t know when it is going to be, you can only speculate at the hints the prime minister “drops.”

The secrecy around the election date is a hot topic at water coolers throughout Malaysia. When scrolling through articles on the internet I noticed that journalists and bloggers have been speculating about the date would be for over a year. In Malaysia, politicians are elected for a five year term. The term will officially end in March 2013. But anywhere in between half way through and the end of the term, the prime minister can decide to have elections.

This is the choice of the prime minister and it enables him to keep the ruling party advantaged in the campaigning process. The announcement of certain policies and legislation can be secretly timed to favor the elections whereas the opposition doesn’t have these tools to work with. The elections can be announced to take place anywhere between a few days in advance to a few weeks. The opposition has to always be ready for elections, knowing that they might only have a few days to prepare.

Not only the opposition needs time to prepare, voters do too. In order to make a good decision, voters have to reevaluate what they stand for and how important certain political views are for them. Without the time to prepare, nobody can be expected to make the choice that is best for them, thus disabling a fair election process.

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