A refrain from voting effectively disenfranchises refraining voters from decision-making processes. When options sit along a political spectrum and the refrain causes candidate standing farthest from specific voters is elected into office, it is highly likely that issue raised by that specific voters will be ignored in favor of issues raised by the supporters of the candidate. As I have explained earlier, this makes voting imperative, especially when the participation rate is high and when the voting outcome affects the voters. Thus, Hobson has been taken out of the equation. While the importance of voting has been established, I have yet to answer the question of how does one vote under the current Malaysian circumstances. Sophie still stares at us.
To do so, we have to establish our goal, be it libertarian or some other thinkings. With two points identified, we then will be able to determine which path to follow.
To answer my dilemma — which many share, I am sure — we cannot solve it by working from the stage of reality to the stage of ideal. To convincingly answer it, we have to take our goals and work it backward.
The libertarian goal is the maximization of liberty and that is my goal. The typical caveat applies but this is not an entry about the definition of libertarianism and so, we shall leave it there and confidently move on.
Prior to the dissolution of the Parliament in February, we had an influential government with a shockingly strong mandate. Subsequent events in the past several years have proven that the mandate had enabled tyranny of the majority; the inferiority of majoritarian democracy to liberal democracy was proven albeit painfully. I have repeatedly emphasized the superior of a liberal democracy to “democracy, Malaysian-style” and so, I will say no more of majoritarian and liberal democracy.
I repeat, an extremely strong Malaysian government resulted in the minimization of liberty. So strong it was that liberties supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution have been grossly violated from time to time. Worse, the Constitution and policies could be amended according to Prime Minister’s mood of the day. A case in point: the extension of the retirement age of the EC chairman.
Given the status quo and the ultimate goal of libertarianism — or at least, the prevention of tyranny of the majority — the immediate goal for the 2008 Malaysian general election is clear. The immediate goal is the reduction of the power of the state. With history suggesting that BN will form the majority in the Dewan Rakyat by default, this translates into voting against BN.
That however does not quite cut it for me. I am facing a choice between having to choose UMNO, which is part of BN, and PAS. Does voting for PAS enhance my liberty?
Ideologically, it does not but pragmatically, it does enhance liberty due to rationale against tyranny of the majority.
At a stall last week, I had a supper with a several individuals and one of them was the respected lawyer Haris Ibrahim. He said, “this is not the time for a debate” in response to question by a Christian whom asked why should she vote for PAS?
Mr. Haris further stated, “do the arithmetic. PAS will not be able to form the government.” PAS is contesting only about 60 seats and it is only expected to win at least 40 seats. With 111 seats level marks the 50% threshold — if PAS is interested in forming a government; assuming BN would sit in the opposition — PAS will have to collaborate with other political parties which do not share the goals of PAS, including DAP.
Compare this to the current unmitigated Islamization process done by BN, led by UMNO.
Unlike UMNO, PAS limited influence can be controlled. UMNO’s influence on the other hand is too enormous to manage. Just observe BN; despite the presence of MCA and MIC as well as other junior partners, UMNO is free to dictate the direction of the coalition while dissent is swiftly punished. Fascism is the word of the day. If I may say so, intolerance for dissent is the reason why parties instead of individuals dominate Malaysian politics. Until these parties are humbled, individual-based politics will not thrive.
The only way I could think of to starve off creeping Islamization is the introduction of political competition in the legislature. This leads to the same conclusion yet again: the reduction of the power of the state.
Finally, when PAS knows that it is getting protest votes from those that do not agree to its Islamism and if PAS is interested in keeping and building its influence, it will have to continue to cater to these voters, which does not the traditional voters of PAS. Eventually, PAS agenda will be toned down.
Thus, the Sophie’s choice is solved without appealing to the rationale of the lesser of the two evils. What I have done is realizing an aspiration to achieve the noblest of all goals with clear conscience. I refuse to dance with Sophie.