Looking for the right candidates

It is telling that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Johor Umno last Friday that Barisan Nasional candidates for GE14 must be both “winnable and likeable”.

This is a strong but unclear message to Barisan political leaders especially as Umno will be holding its annual division meetings from July 12 to Aug 26 this year.

What is unclear is that if the candidates are winnable, they would most probably be also “likeable”. We cannot have winnable candidates who are not likeable. After all, which voter wants to support an unlikable candidate unless he is under some kind of financial or psychological duress?

Indeed, a likeable candidate may not be a winnable candidate. Hence, a winnable candidate must clearly be more than just likeable to qualify to be selected as a Barisan candidate for the general election. He must be made of sterner stuff.

What then should be the criteria for selecting winnable candidates for the general election?

1. Honesty and morality are prerequisites especially with high national corruption and public expenditure wastage.

2. Intelligence is essential. We don’t want representatives who do not have the confidence to debate on high policy matters or those who stoop to cheap politicking because they do not know how to debate properly.

3. Capability is required as we cannot afford to have elected representatives with low and poor academic qualifications. How would they be able to cope with the growing knowledge economy and international economic challenges and security threats?

4. A Malaysian outlook is vital for our survival. The foundations of our nation were laid by our founding fathers on the basis of national unity. Hence, political leaders and extremists who play the race and religious cards and indulge in bigotry should be rejected as candidates or rejected by the voters.

5. Sustainable development goals as proposed by the United Nations should be the hallmark and aspiration of all candidates. If our elected representatives are not prepared to push hard to achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, then they are not worthy of our support.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is reported to have said the proven formula that won the last several elections for Barisan was the choice of candidates who are “well liked” by voters. That makes some sense. But what if the so-called popular and likeable candidate is a racist, religious bigot or just a plain and simply corrupt person or crook? These are difficult questions to raise but they have to be brought up if we are to have a credible and lively democracy. Hence, leaders of all political parties have to deal boldly with the powerful warlords who threaten our democratic system.

Malaysian voters today are mature and sophisticated. They will want to vote for candidates who are honest, able and willing to sacrifice more to serve all Malaysians regardless of race or religion. And those who strive to enable all Malaysians to achieve their full potential will be the winnable candidates.

Article published in The Star.

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