Your tacit approval


At least Najib Tun Razak rules with 47% of the votes. Anwar Ibrahim is going to rule with just 2%. And we dare point fingers at Najib?


Raja Petra Kamarudin

“Those who lament over the costs of the by-election fail to understand that there are unavoidable costs inherent in a functioning democracy. Their focus should be on clean elections, and not a cheap democracy,” said PKR vice-president N. Surendran.

That is a most interesting comment yet by a PKR vice-president — we should focus on clean elections and not on a cheap democracy. This has basically been my argument all along when I engage critics of the monarchy who argue that the monarchy costs money and hence should abolished.

Elections are one process of democracy. It is only the method in how we choose the government once every five years or so. But if we think that is the only thing involving democracy, then we would be agreeing with what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has always been saying (and what Zainuddin Maidin said in 2007). And that is Malaysia is a democratic country since it holds elections every five years.

Democracy is more that just about holding elections. There is also the conduct of the elections that we need to talk about, plus the equal representation issue (which can be subverted through gerrymandering). We cannot say that we have true democracy if the elections are unfair or fraudulent (unfair may not necessarily be fraudulent/illegal as it can also be legal although unfair at the same time) or the legal gerrymandering results in disproportionate representation.

The problem is, in a democracy, unfair does not always translate to illegality. It can be legal yet unfair, or legal yet unjust.

Take the impending Kajang by-election as an example. In May 2013, Selangorians voted for Pakatan Rakyat because they were tacitly promised that Khalid Ibrahim would continue as the Menteri Besar in the event that Pakatan Rakyat wins the state.

I say tacitly promised because Pakatan Rakyat did not announce that if they were to win the state then Selangor would get a new Menteri Besar. And the people were not also told that if Pakatan Rakyat does retain Selangor and if they do appoint a new Menteri Besar who this man is going to be.

It was no secret even long before May 2013 that there was a serious rift between Khalid and Azmin Ali and that Khalid may actually be dropped in favour of Azmin. Everyone knew this. And Pakatan Rakyat knew that everyone knew this. Yet Pakatan Rakyat remained silent on the matter.

Pakatan Rakyat’s silence was interpreted as its tacit approval for Khalid to continue another term if the party wins the election. So voters in 44 of the 56 state constituencies gave their vote to Pakatan Rakyat.

If Pakatan Rakyat had announced that Khalid would be dropped then there is a possibility that Pakatan Rakyat may not have won 44 seats. They could have won 50 of the 56 seats instead. Or they could have won just 36 of the 56 seats. We would never know unless it was made clear before May 2013 that Khalid would be axed.

So the people in Selangor were asked to choose between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat. The people knew (or thought they knew) that if Pakatan Rakyat wins the election then Khalid would be their Menteri Besar. But they did not know if Barisan Nasional were to win who was going to be their Menteri Besar.

And this was the bad election strategy that Barisan Nasional adopted. And I told my friends in Umno that if they did not make it clear who Barisan Nasional’s choice of Menteri Besar is then be prepared to suffer a walloping.

And they agreed. They did not dispute what I said. And this is the problem that they were facing but which they could not figure out what to do about it.

The Umno Selangor Chief is Noh Omar. But not many people like Noh Omar. If they announce that he is going to be the Menteri Besar if Barisan Nasional wins the state then most likely Pakatan Rakyat would win 50 of the 56 constituencies instead of just 44.

I spoke to some friends in MCA and they just hate Noh Omar. “I can’t even look at his face,” one MCA chap said. “My backside looks nicer than his face. If he is going to be the Menteri Besar then Barisan Nasional might as well not bother to contest the election. Just close shop better.”

So Barisan Nasional did not dare announce who their Menteri Besar was going to be. And if they announce someone other than Noh Omar then their own Umno people would sabotage the party. So they had to remain silent as to who they were going to nominate as the Menteri Besar from Umno and settle this only after the election is over.

Hence Barisan Nasional went into the May 2013 election with one very crucial unanswered question — the question of Umno’s choice of Menteri Besar. And Pakatan Rakyat went into the May 2013 election with their tacit approval for Khalid to continue another term.

Now, tacit approval is a very important issue to talk about. In law we talk about express and implied. Express would be when you clearly state your position. Implied would be when you do not disagree or your actions insinuate that you agree.

For example, if you ask a girl whether she wants to have sex with you and she says yes that is express. But if you do not ask her and you start taking her clothes off and she remains silent and does not struggle or protest, she is implying that she agrees to have sex with you (unless you put a knife to her throat and she ‘consented’ because she was scared).

Students of political philosophy will say that the citizens of the country need to give their approval for the government to rule over them. If they do not agree to the country having a government then they would be called anarchists. Anarchists reject all forms of government and believe that the laws of nature should prevail.

Anarchists, however, are in the minority because the majority would be of the opinion that a country would be unbearable to live in if it did not have a government. Hence the majority would support the notion of the country having a government.

So, the fact that, say, 95% of the citizens of the country agree to a government as opposed to only 5% who feel no government is better, we can say that 95% of the people have given their consent to the country forming a government (if not you would be an anarchist).

Next would be the way the government is chosen. Let us say 15 million of the people are eligible to vote. However, only 10 million people vote while the other 5 million do not.

That would mean the 5 million who do not vote have given their tacit approval to accept any government that eventually comes to power. They cannot turn around and say, “I did not vote for this government so I do not accept this government.”

The fact that they did not vote means they not only accept the government but will accept any government that may come to power.

This, most Malaysians do not seem to understand. You have given your tacit approval for, say, Barisan Nasional to run the country because you did not vote.

Now, what about those who did vote but did not vote for Barisan Nasional?

Well, you agreed to participate in the process of choosing the government. Whether the electoral process is fraudulent or unfair is another issue. You knew what the system was like and yet you still agreed to participate in the process by voting (in spite of what you know).

Hence you have agreed to accept the results of the election (fraudulent or not). And at the same time you have given your tacit approval for whoever wins the election to form the government.

In matters of state when we adopt western style democracy of parliamentary elections it is very complicated and not always fair. Democracy is not perfect and neither is the western method of choosing governments.

If Mekah and Medina held elections back in the 600s to decide who should rule over them then most probably Prophet Muhammad would have lost the election because those who were opposed to him outnumbered those who supported him. Hence, today, there would probably be no Islam if they had held elections. And because they did not hold elections to choose the successor to Prophet Muhammad (he was chosen by a committee), the Muslims went into civil war, something that is still a serious problem until today, even in Malaysia.

Now, Selangorians were asked to choose their government in May 2013 based on the understanding that Pakatan Rakyat had given its tacit approval for Khalid Ibrahim to continue another term. So Pakatan Rakyat won 44 out of the 56 constituencies. Today, just the Kajang people are being asked whether they want a new Menteri Besar.

There are 56 state constituencies in Selangor. But only one constituency is being asked to decide whether the state should have a new Menteri Besar. Is it fair that the Selangorians in the other 55 constituencies have no say in the matter when they had decided that they want Khalid as the Menteri Besar back in May 2013?

Selangorians in 44 of the 56 constituencies said yes to Khalid. So, if you want a new mandate for a Selangor Menteri Besar, it is not enough to go to just one constituency to get this mandate. You need to go back to all the 56 constituencies because this was the decision of all 56 constituencies in May 2013.

We talk about gerrymandering and accuse Barisan Nasional of not being a legitimate government because it garnered less that 50% of the votes.

Selangor has almost 2 million voters. But only 38,000 voters are being asked to decide on behalf of 2 million Selangor voters. This comes to less than 2%. Is it fair that 2% are being asked to decide on behalf of 100%?

At least Najib Tun Razak rules with 47% of the votes. Anwar Ibrahim is going to rule with just 2%. And we dare point fingers at Najib?