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VULNERABLE: Voting in petulance or frustration can cause the exact opposite result of what is intended
EARLIER this month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak appeared on ntv7's Mandarin talk show, Chat Time, where he urged Chinese fence-sitters to support his national transformation agenda.
In recent months, he has made overtures to the Chinese, reaching out to them through various channels and addressing issues important to them.
During the ntv7 interview, Najib tackled controversial topics, such as the Lynas rare earth refinery in Pahang, the MYRapid Transit route through Jalan Sultan in Kuala Lumpur, and Chinese education problems.
He also indicated that he was confident of increased support from the Chinese following the reform agenda and his efforts to engage with them.
However, his sentiments may not be shared by other politicians in Barisan Nasional and parties or individuals aligned to the ruling coalition, whose words and actions often unravel the goodwill fostered by Najib's initiatives.
Many second-, third-, fourth-generation Chinese and onwards are frustrated at being labelled as pendatang (immigrants) whenever they ask that all races be treated fairly in terms of services, education, jobs and allocations.
These generations of Chinese identify themselves more than ever as Malaysians. They have never known any other country as home and they want inclusiveness to be the way forward for Malaysia.
If they feel that their vote is what it takes to make their voices heard, they will turn out in droves the next election to make an impact.
They know that it is only at the ballot box that there is no quota imposed on anyone. Each individual's vote speaks for itself.
The question is: will they vote for meaningful change for all Malaysians? Or will they vote out of desperation and even risk choosing the unknown?
Many political pundits have predicted that the Chinese vote will swing towards the opposition. The opposition coalition certainly recognises the power of this electorate and is doing its best to exploit the vote to its advantage, whether by aligning itself to Chinese interests or attacking ultra groups for being racist against the Chinese.
If the trend of the 2008 election continues, we will likely see more Chinese voting for a 180o change in the country's leadership.
It is a risky move, but the Chinese rationalise it by saying that if the new leadership does not deliver, they can be voted out again in five years.
This puts the country in a precarious situation. When people use their vote as a defensive manoeuvre, they may elect leaders who tell them what they want to hear, but who won't necessarily deliver what they need.
Some people have taken exception to the fact that the country is being "held hostage" by the Chinese vote in this way.
But the majority need not worry about being threatened; if anything, it is the Chinese that is more vulnerable than ever.
Everyone is playing on the emotions of Chinese voters, using threats, promises, sincere or otherwise, and guilt.
This should make the Chinese wary of how they are being courted. Will any of these promises be kept?
Who will treat them fairly? Who will address the real issues facing the community, not the politicised issues but ones that affect everybody, such as education, corruption and the economy?
Chinese voters are facing a dilemma.
They have to ask themselves whether voting for the opposition will really change the system in their favour, or whether they should give certain aspects of government leadership a chance to improve the country.
A vote is a powerful thing. Cast in petulance or frustration, it could end up causing the exact opposite result of what was intended.
Therefore, the Chinese have to think carefully about how to use their vote to contribute to Ma-laysia's future, and not just impose another brand of racism on the country.