Many parties try to count the chicken after the Bersih rally-and they risk rushing into their conclusions at this time! Bersih Chair Ambiga was more philosophical in taking credit for the multiracial participation and shaking of middle class apathy. But an academic and also central figure of Bersih’s steering committee already counted 100 seats that can go to PR on account of Bersih’s wave! The prediction was refuted immediately by Merdeka Centre’s Ben Suffian who quite rightly point to the rural reality where Bersih is still a foreign brand. Earlier the opinion poll centre had also found in its poll that the public, including rural public, are more influenced by mainstream media in their decidedly negative views of Bersih. Perhaps there are some spread of Bersih’s message in 2 areas: there are now a keener interest to focus on the specific weaknesses of the electoral rolls and plenty of weaknesses are unearthed in the last 2 weeks by all the parties. Then Kuching organiser of a Red Rally changed tune from calling for the toppling of Taib to the bringing democracy to elections-and for that it has won endorsement from the Bersih secretariat.
Then more interests are generated by the village head elections in Selangor after Bersih. See details of the innovative elections in previous post.
So the impact of Bersih march is still developing. If there are more willingness by various parties to get their hands dirty in working out the details and specifics of the electoral process -including the electoral rolls, then the objections will sound more credible and more capable of refuting the EC’s challenge for providing solid evidence of electoral weaknesses. The Opposition will shed its image of sometimes sacrifising truth in its shouting match with the mainstream media, if it seriously scrutinise the electoral mal-administration.
The keener interests on electoral mal-administration will also highlight the need for non-contesting parties/non-partisan groups to scrutinise the electoral process. Put simply: you cannot expect the players in a football match to play referee at the same time. It is laudable that a Bersih steering committee member has tendered his resignation from the Bersih committee on account of his new found `difficulty’ to write about politics without being carried away by his party campaign sentiments. It was a decision that took him a long time in the making despite him being a veteran lawyer.
Currently there are 2 strands of concern over election and politics. The prominent one is the party oriented one where their concerns run parallel to the political parties. Since most thinking Malaysians hold a healthy scepticism against politicinas especially long running incumbents, the trendy thing to do is to respond to the `sos’ from the under-resourced opposition and join the PACA or even more advanced PACABA (Polling Agent, Counting Agent, EC Booth Agents) training to ensure the parties are able to give a fair fight to the ruling coalition.
There is another strand which take electoral process more holistically and subject the entire electoral process -from its institutional framework to post-polling complaint mechanism, to close scrutiny as a way to generate criticisms and generate recommendations for change and campaign ideas for change of the imperfect electoral system we have currently. They see the PACA training as a temporary phase of the needs of electoral challenge and much more still await those who are committed to electoral fairness further down the road. Responding to the party agenda is not the only way to improve the electoral problems we have today.
There will be people who are attracted to either of the 2 strands above-but the heightened interests in improving our elections will pile more pressures on the EC to perform. Their weaknesses and partisanship will be less tolerated and all the details of their incompetence or biases will be highlighted by the post-Bersih generation. That could be where Bersih has its bigger impact, if the public-both urban and rural, rise up to demand level playing fields in elections in Malaysia!