Saturday, March 8, 2008

Polling day

The day has arrived. March 8, 2008, polling day for Malaysia’s General Election. There are straight fights in both my Petaling Jaya (PJ) Selatan parliamentary and Bukit Gasing state legislative seats: incumbent ruling party MP Donald Lim against Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s relative unknown Hee Loy Sian in the federal contest; while incumbent Barisan Nasional chap Dr. Lim Thuang Seng comes up against local boy, the DAP’s Edward Lee.

On the drive to the polling station this morning, after breakfast had been nicely tucked away, the roads near the school were lined festively with banners and posters.

Flanking the entrance to the school/polling station were two booths, one for the ruling coalition and the other for the opposition. Crowds milled around the Barisan tent, checking the PCs for their names, I presume. The opposition tent had much fewer folks there, by comparison.

We’ve been living in our house since 1966, so my parents have been voting here for a long time. They could tell you many stories about elections and candidates – it seems to me they are fence sitters, waiting to see the quality of the candidates as much as the party they represent. They have idiosyncratic ways of making up their minds, which I guess is the beauty of the democratic system. Two nights ago, at around 3 am, a convoy of cars and motorcycles zoomed noisily through our neighbourhood, shouting the slogans of one particular party (I’m not naming the party, since it’s not clear whether they convoy was from that party or from the rival group, masquerading and irritating the residents). Mum was rudely woken up and had trouble falling asleep, and spent the whole of the next day grumbling about them. I think they lost her vote.

Despite being in their late 70s, they made it to the polling station, with a little help from Second Sis.

There were a steady stream of voters coming and going – not so busy as to make parking impossible, but big enough to create a buzz. We already knew which room we were voting in, but if you weren’t sure, you could check at the polling station.

Voting itself was painless and fuss free. Ushers and policemen were willing to help you along, and once you got to your room, you joined the queue, which wasn’t more than five deep when we were there. Once you turn came, you entered the room.

One of three ladies checked my Identity Card against the roll, and called out my name, IC and registration numbers once she was satisfied I wasn’t a phantom. The second lady tore the ballot papers out (one magenta; one orange), while the third punched a hole through them, carefully sweeping the punched bits into a neat little mountain on her table, before giving me the ballot papers.

As I was about to X the ballot papers, I reflected on how Malaysia was indeed much better than Myanmar, as Donald Lim strove to remind his voters a week or so ago. With that in mind, I made two crosses, stuffed the ballot papers into the box (with a lady hovering near me with a ruler in case I was incapable of competent stuffing), and exited the room.

There, all done. In 5 minutes. I wonder why we don’t get close to 100% turnout, since voting is so easy and painless (and so is registration, nowadays). Are people so apathetic?


jerng said...

not always apathetic. some of us are systematically incentivised to not-vote. cynical is perhaps a more accurate description. anarchistic also works.

Jen L. said...

I think the picture says that you can't use those circa 1996 Motorola handphone bricks. The new Nokias and Samsungs, can. iPhone also boleh, if you could get your hands on one.