Come election time, we see politicians focusing on the ethnicity of the voters, whether at the national, state of local levels.
This is reinforced by official statistics of the ethnic breakdown of each constituency and analysts’ attempts to predict and later analyse results by looking at these ethnic statistics.
Even the choice of the parties standing in each constituency is largely based on the ethnicity of the voters in the respective constituencies.
Such ethnic considerations are unhelpful and entrench ethnic stereotyping and divisions.
Voters these days are more aware of the issues, and that largely determines how they vote. Similarly, ignorance cuts across ethnic boundaries.
Economic issues – the higher cost of living, the lack of affordable housing, low wages – also cut across ethnic boundaries. Economic forces, environmental issues, the global economic slowdown, resource depletion and rampant corruption affect a broad spectrum of society, irrespective of the ethnicity of the people.
Are there many countries in the world where the ethnic breakdown of voters plays an exaggerated role in elections? Do any of the developed countries or their parties talk in terms of how many votes they can draw from particular ethnic groups? Do they provide statistics of the ethnic composition of voters in each area to be analysed to death by pundits and published in the media for public consumption?
Why are we so unnaturally obsessed with ethnic statistics come election time? Is it because every part of our national life has been divided by ethnic quotas and statistics that when it comes to elections, we still can’t help looking at campaign strategies, choice of candidates, choice of party for a particular area, predictions of results and post-election analyses through ethnically-tinted lenses.
Shouldn’t political parties, especially those campaigning for change in a new Malaysia, move beyond ethnic considerations and look at the real issues affecting us all while encouraging voters to adopt a more universal perspective?