Yesterday was an extraordinary day in Malaysia; the ruling party was finally toppled after running the country for 61 years, ever since it became an independent country. The corrupt Prime Minister, who recently rejigged all the electoral boundaries to try to ensure another victory, has been ousted.
I woke to a text from our head teacher saying, ‘History is being made as we speak’, and all day there have been happy smiling people everywhere, talking excitedly in groups. The atmosphere is euphoric, with none of the violence predicted by the press. A local friend sent a text, ‘Never thought I’d cry for Malaysia’, and my smiling taxi driver last night said, ‘I’m so happy. I never thought this day would come in Malaysia.’
All evening we could hear spontaneous cheering, whistling and party-blowers tooting from bars and restaurants, and I kept getting a strange feeling of deja-vu, but couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I suddenly realised that it reminded me of Harry Potter, and the wizarding world’s reaction to Voldemort’s disappearance. There were no strange men in emerald cloaks here or showers of owls, but there was the same air of joy, relief and excitement about a future they hadn’t dared hope for, that has suddenly appeared in front of them.
The new Prime Minister is 92 years old, but looks jolly sprightly when I compare him to my 91-year-old father.
And I finally understood why they need a public holiday on election day. People have to queue – routinely for up to three hours in the heat – to cast their vote.
According to the news, three people died during the voting process – two waiting in queues and one election official. Apparently voters are taken one by one into a room to have their details checked at snail’s pace, and then move into the voting room, where their finger is indelibly inked as a precaution, should they feel moved to queue up again for another go … quite a few people have been known to rise from the dead to cast their vote during previous elections.
The black finger is like an exclusive club membership at the moment, with restaurants offering discounts or even free food in some cases.
There were so many warnings of potential unrest, violence, rioting etc, that we played it safe and celebrated election day with a pool party
Can you see me?
And now … two more Public Holidays to celebrate the opposition’s win. So that’s three in a row … oh, and the one last week, and another one at the end of May, and yet another one on 2 June.
Go, Malaysia – Public Holiday Capital of the World!