Lembah Pantai candidates

Raja Nong Chik banners strung together by rafia made it very hard for voters negotiating footpaths at Lembah Pantai late morning on 5 May 2013.

We came from Sydney to vote at the Al-Khawarizmi Agama (Islamic religious) primary school, one of three polling stations set up in the hotly-contested constituency won by Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, in the 2008 poll.

The school had at least 17 lines, to ease the queues.

Election Commission officials were helpful, polite and smiling as they calmly pointed voters to the partitioned desks where you marked your ballot, and later to the transparent box into which you dropped your vote.

Third-party reports circulated of people being able to wash off the indelible ink with alcohol-based gel or the antiseptic wash, Dettol.

Global Bersih was also told that six “Burmese-looking” people were trying to vote with “Malay ICs”, but they were scared away by watchful Malaysians and ran away.

The roads leading to the three stations were congested with cars, motorcycles, bicycles and voters, some of whom brought entire families along to mark their place in Malaysian history.

A 14-year-old Malaysian girl told us before we drove off to vote: “Don’t forget your forms.” It was only another sign that this 13th general election and its attendant issues, rumours and fear-tactics became the only topic of conversation at family meals, cafes, restaurants, pubs and wherever motley Malaysian crews gathered.

The latest catch-cries of the millions who gathered at ceramahs around the country were “505 – BN bye bye!” and “Beban Negara” (country’s burden), the new long-form for BN, Najib Razak’s incumbent Barisan Nasional government that is dominated by the Malay-Muslim based UMNO party.

Journalists have found it very hard to find a BN ceramah to cover in a presidential-style campaign that focuses only on PM Najib.

The opposition Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Coalition) has once again offered Malaysians a multi-racial, multi-faith and and multi-ethnic alternative government.

In spite of verified reports of electoral fraud and news that planeloads of “voters” had begun arriving on chartered flights, destined to shore up BN votes in key seats such as Nurul Izzah’s, the mood has been hopeful as Malaysians say “Ini kali lah” (this is it), “Ubah” (change) and “ABU” (anything but Umno).

Indeed, for most Malaysians, both resident and from abroad, the country has changed irrevocably, and a people that once identified itself by race is now united in saying “We are all Malaysians”.

The dream, as one journalist put it, is to able to refer to Anwar Ibrahim as “Mr Prime Minister” tomorrow.

William de Cruz is a freelance Malaysian journalist. He resides in Sydney with his family, and returned to his home country with his wife to vote in this election. His recent contributions as a writer may be found on www.malaysiakini.com .