What do the general elections have to do with me, and how can I vote well?
No man is an island. So the saying goes. We are all part of a complex network of families and neighbourhoods. Our immediate family members, our geographic neighbours, our housing estates, our states, all build up to something we call a country or a nation. We are all connected to one another by a membership described as “citizenship”, where we pool our resources to live together in a way that can be most harmonious and meaningful. Of course, “fellow citizens” is not always the only way we define our relationship with one another (there’s also family, colleagues, neighbours, etc), but such a connection certainly brings about certain privileges and their corresponding responsibilities.
Through the giving of taxes, we pool together resources to build and maintain infrastructure, especially in a dense urban setting where we live very close to one another. These include sufficient clean water, electricity, drainage and sewerage systems, transportation networks, garbage collection, public parks and public spaces. Other vital but less tangible items that we share are town and country plans, various kinds of policies, laws and other documents (the most important ones being the Constitution and the Rukunegara) that provide fair living conditions for all citizens in a particular vicinity. We also need third parties or intermediaries that help us resolve conflicts whenever we come across them, such as the police, the court system and so on.
Who Makes Decisions?
But who makes the decisions on these important matters? In our country and many other countries on this planet, an elected government does, through a clear regulated system. Every four to five years, our national life is punctuated by the general elections that give citizens like you and me the opportunity to decide on who will make decisions on our behalf, so that we can live better in this space we call Malaysia. It is not so much as our government giving us a chance to vote, but more of our responsibility to choose a government who will make good decisions – big and small – on our behalf.
In short, we choose leaders via the general elections, to make decisions on our behalf.
In Malaysia, we choose two levels of leaders – the state assemblyman who makes decisions at state level, and the member of parliament for the national level. For the sake of simplicity, we will call them the people’s representatives.
It is important to choose leaders based on their values and perceived priorities. For example, one people’s representative may feel strongly about a fair health system. Another might have a mission to ensure fair business for small-sized companies. Another might have a heart to increasing opportunities for the poor. Whatever the case may be, we can learn more about the stands of the leader through the statements they make, and the statements of the party they belong. This is why it is important to pay attention to reports from Parliament proceedings as they occur, as well as speeches people’s representatives make prior to the elections. Once we have heard from them, we will be able to match them to our own opinions of how our country should be run based on the issues of the day, and make a decision.
How Can We Vote Well?
How can we vote well as Christian citizens? Usually, people vote for who will benefit them. As disciples of Jesus, we are aware of our own needs, and seek to walk with Him. A disciple of Jesus is also aware of the needs of the world around him or her. Jesus Himself, was in touch, and in even an active participant in the society structures of His days in the Roman empire.
The double commandment of loving God and loving neighbour (Mark 12:30-31) lean against each other as an inseparable pair – we cannot love God without loving our neighbours. Or rather, our lives of loving God will inevitably lead us to love and consider our neighbour. This is hardly surprising because God has made the human race, even this entire planet, and He has initiated this great Redemption project out of love to redeem or save it (John 3:16-17; Romans 8:19-22).
So while it is important to vote for representatives who will benefit us, it is important that we vote for leaders who will also benefit our neighbour, particularly those who are unlike us and especially the poor, the foreigner, marginalised and side-lined. The Bible especially praises kings who rule with justice, with the poor in mind, who work to raise their wellbeing and return their dignity. The Bible criticises kings who only favour the rich at the expense of the poor. The Bible also criticises rulers who exploit the poor to gather riches for themselves. Indeed the Bible gives praise to good rulers and leaders who make the cause of the poor and needy their priority. Jesus our risen King Himself identifies Himself with such values. (Read all about these from passages such as Psalm 72; Proverbs 31, Amos 1-2, Luke 1:46-55; Luke 4:14-21 and so on).
In short, voting well is an easy way of loving our neighbours as we love ourselves!
So if you’re eligible to vote (at least 21 years of age), do the following:
- Register to vote if you haven’t done so, at the nearest post office to you. It takes a couple of months to get onto the system so do that the soonest you can!
- Prepare yourself to vote. Read up on the different parties and leaders that are vying to lead. Keep a close eye on the developments surrounding the general elections. Read up on what the Bible says good kings and rulers should do when it comes to ruling justly! (Read all about these from passages such as Psalm 72; Proverbs 31, Amos 1-2, Luke 1:46-55; Luke 4:14-21 and so on).
- Volunteer to help out at the general elections! Here is an opportunity not to be missed. To find out more, drop your name at our church Info Counter
- And finally, make sure you are in the country during the general elections – and go out there to vote.