The dramatic switch of the Bersih rally to a stadium may have disappointed some and bring relief to others -but that is beside the point, really! The point of Bersih has been electoral reform. Does the change of venue affect this aim from being achieved? This is the serious issue to be addressed from here. It can be said that the fight for electoral reform is still going on-there is no stopping even after the stadium/rally. Notice that after the `successful’ 1st Bersih rally there were not much headway in terms of electoral reforms to speak of. The consolation was the break through in election results in 2008. Are we going to witness the same this time? The possible road maps for electoral reforms are many:
A. BN allow Bersih 2 at a stadium and after that forget about the Bersih appeal for electoral reform because they think that they had neutralised Bersih’s most potent weapon ie street protest; People get dissappointed and give PR more votes at 13th GE; If PR win over Parliament they may be able to affect some electoral reforms-but not all. Eg they can repeal ISA by simple majority in Parliament-to remove the worst legal threat to citizens’ participation in politics. But they cannot remove past effect of gerry mandering – -which need 2/3 majority in Parliament! People may be split over how far they can move -just like the case of local government elections in PR controlled states;
B. BN allow Bersih 2 at stadium and make some concessions on electoral reforms eg a few more days for campaign period; convert most of the police and military postal votes to early votes; allow East Malaysians to vote by postal votes etc. Some people get happy and go back to their work; the few who continue to fight may not get sufficient support/momentum to push for much change;
C. Some people remain unhappy and staged a street protest anyway on July 9th; The split of the movement weakened the electoral reform agenda and extended in-fighting may distract it from fighting the external enemy; BN may get away and miss being ousted in 13th GE by a whisker…Electoral reforms then have to be rebuilt from scratch again-over many years!
The various possibilities depend very much on how people are committed to electoral reforms and the democracy that it promises. We cannot simply trust the PR to deliver it in conjunction with their victory to take over Putrajaya alone. Just see how some of the Opposition politicians are not that committed to electoral reforms. A PR leader congratulated the EC for conducting the best election after theu won in a by-election-forgetting that during the campaign they accused the EC of various sins like phantom voters, vote buying, abuses of goverenment facilities etc etc. EC was happy to quote from the Opposition leader to show how well received they were after that!
The surer champion of electoral reform and democracy remain the people. More public education is needed to raise the level od awareness as well as committment towards electoral reforms and democracy. It may take time-but the results will be most satisfying in the long run! So: stadium or not could be a temporary set back/compromise the important issue is: what do we do from here!