By Ramon Navaratnam
It is telling that Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Johor Umno last Friday that Barisan Nasional (BN) candidates for the next general election (GE14) must be both “winnable and likeable”.
This is a strong but unclear message to BN political leaders, especially as Umno will be holding its division meetings from now until the end of August.
What is unclear is that, if the candidates are winnable, they will most probably be also “likeable”. We cannot have winnable candidates who are not likeable.
After all, which voter wants to support an unlikable candidate, unless he is under some kind of financial or psychological duress.
Indeed a likeable candidate may not qualify to be a winnable candidate. If so, then even a clown can qualify to be selected as a candidate, but he will not be a winnable candidate.
Hence, likeable candidates are not necessarily winnable candidates. However, a winnable candidate must clearly be much more than just a likeable candidate, to qualify to be selected as a BN general election candidate or for that matter, any election candidate.
Actually he must be made of sterner stuff, rather than just be likeable, or we all will suffer even more from some poor leaders.
What then should be the criteria for selecting winnable election candidates?
The criteria could or should be as follows:
- Honesty and morality are prerequisites, especially at this time of rising national corruption and high public expenditure wastage.
- Intelligence is essential. We don’t want dumb candidates who are passive in Parliament as they have either no confidence to debate on high policy matters or they stoop down to cheap politicking because they do not know what and how to debate properly.
- Capability is required, as we cannot afford to have our elected representatives with low and poor academic qualifications. How would they be able to cope with the growing knowledge economy and the international economic challenges and security threats.
- A Malaysian outlook is vital for our survival. The foundations for our nation were laid by our great founding fathers on the basis of national unity. Hence, political leaders and extremists, who dangerously play the race and religious cards and who indulge in bigotry, should be rejected as general election candidates or be thrown out by the voters.
- Sustainable development goals, as proposed by the United Nations should be the hallmarks and sacred commitment and aspirations of all general election candidates, from all political flavours and fields.
If our elected representatives are not prepared to push hard for the fulfillment of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, on a consistent basis, then they are not worthy of our support,for now and for TN50 and beyond.
Prime Minister Najib Razak is reported to have said that the proven formula that helped win the general elections for BN was the choice of popular candidates who are “well liked” by voters.
That makes some sense. But what if the so-called popular and likeable candidate is a racist, a religious bigot or a plain and simply corrupt person or crook.
Then those who play the racial and extremist religious political tunes and those who promise large sums of money through the extensive use of dirty “money politics” will win the candidacy to run for the elections.
And if they win by some stroke of luck or strong assistance, they will get into power and runaway with a lot of the loot.
These are difficult questions to raise but they have to be debated if we are to have a plausible, credible and lively democracy.
Hence, the leaders of all political parties have to be bold and decisive and deal stoutly with the powerful war lords who threaten our democratic system.
Malaysian voters today have become more mature and sophisticated. They will not vote for just likeable candidates or even winnable candidates.
Today’s voters will want to vote for GE14 candidates who are honest, able and willing to sacrifice more to serve all Malaysians – regardless of race and religion.
Candidates who strive to enable all Malaysians achieve their full potential, will be the winnable candidates and not just likeable and other types of unworthy GE14 candidates.
Let’s hope our political leaders send the right messages to the GE14 candidates, and select the right candidates – or face the prospect of disappointment and even electoral failure.
The Malaysian voters’ will to vote wisely shall prevail and God willing, let not any undue obstacles hinder free and fair elections.
Ramon Navaratnam is chairman of the Asli Center of Public Policy Studies
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