GE13 and My Political Adolescence
May 06, 2013

Being 30, maybe I was one of the older first-time voters in the recent General Election. This statistic is of course unofficial but the articles I’ve read on first-timers had pictures of college students on them. With smartphones growing out of their arms and legs, the youthful glow in their eyes eclipses my aging soul. The energy that I used to have in embracing adulthood pales in comparison to the Internet-meme-fueled enthusiasm that they have today.

But just like getting a colonoscopy, it’s never too late to vote. Realizing that I had actually registered sometime ago, I decided to do the right thing and exercise my right as a responsible citizen at GE13.

I can probably whip out the old “lack of awareness” excuse for not voting the first time around. Truth be told, back then, I simply did not care. The mentality ranged from “It’s just one vote,” to “Who are these people?” So when I first became eligible, I chose to stay at home and do non-electoral activities such as snoring in front of the TV and scratching myself.

Over time however, after spending some time working and getting some of my income taxed, I began to experience and appreciate the direct relationship that I have, as a citizen, with the government. Simply put, these are the people who manage the taxpayers’ money for the country’s development and its people’s welfare. And that’s a huge deal, so voting becomes imperative. The last thing we want is any portion of that fund going to a Botox treatment.

I started paying more attention to political news and reading up on terms that I’ve come across but never bothered to fully understand before. Terms like judicial branch, legislative assembly, ad hominem, consociationalism, gerrymandering, and Zulkifli Noordin. These are words that I’ve always struggled (and pretended) to understand in the past to blend in with my better-read friends. I still have no idea what some of them mean but I could at least now differentiate political terms from herbal seasonings.

To some, this level of ignorance may be unacceptable. 30 years of living in this country and all I could do is tell that gerrymandering is not something that you put in a sandwich? So I agree. I should know more.

I researched further on the people who will be involved in GE13. Who are the heavyweights, where are the hot seats, what are the party agendas... these were the questions lingering in my head ahead of polling day. With the vast amount of information available out there -- real or fake -- however, answering these questions is as easy as a few taps on the phone. Validating the answers however, is no easier than finding free WiFi in downtown Pyongyang.

You’ll always get more than what you had bargained for, though. From dubious posts going viral on Facebook and Twitter to bloggers with pseudonyms you’d only see on a dirty talk MIRC chat room, we take the cake as the most well-informed voters in the world -- for good or bad.

Walking to the polling station on May 5th, a whirlwind of emotions hit me. Maybe it was a part of this “political puberty” I was going through. The whole thing was a new experience and if I could draw parallel, it feels a bit like getting circumcised. You walk out of the room feeling like a new man. The only difference is that you queue up in a long line to get there, and you do it once every five years.

Having taken part in the voting process makes watching the result a much more thrilling experience as well. I remember being in the middle of my father and brother’s commentary of the GE12 results at home while I get Khalid Ibrahim and Khalid Samad mixed up with all the other Khalids in the election. This time around, absorbing what the experts on TV had to say was a less strenuous activity. Especially that Farish Noor guy. I thought good looks were the only thing we both had in common.

As for the results, well I guess you’ve read enough analysis in the papers, online media, and your neighbor’s Facebook page. Plus, what would a recently deflowered election virgin like myself know anyway.

One thing’s for sure, I look forward to GE14. And I hope you are as well.


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Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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