There is a Chinese proverb saying that ” the same type of rice raises up a hundred types of different people”. This simply means that you cannot expect every human to be the same, even when they come from the same culture and background.
This saying is very apt to describe the diverse range of voters. I am always fascinated by how people vote. From my observation, many have made up their minds long before the polling day, but there are many who may tell others that they have made up their minds only to change their mind last minute due to many on-the-day and on-the-spot influences.
Many like myself would have decided what the country needs, and going into the polling booth, we will not hesitate to put a cross next to the person or rather the symbol that we want to choose.
But many would not make up their minds, and sometimes you can see them ponder a bit before drawing the cross in the voting cubicle.
Many who may have decided to vote for a certain party only to change their mind on reaching the polling station. It can be due to very trifle reasons like the perceived impoliteness of the people manning the enquiry section outside, the conduct o the driver who drove the party vehicle to fetch that person, or last minute issues that suddenly surfaced ( the most famous is the headwear incident of TRH in the 1990 Semangat 46 vs BN) . It can also be caused by not so last minute events, such as events in the run-up of the campaign week, an eample of which is the famous incident in Seputih in one of the past elections when a candidate uttered the wrong message of ‘man standing and women squatting’… the tide turned so badly against him that he was never given a second chance by his party.
In the last GE, the 4 candidates for Chief Ministers(and the announcement that the one who won the highest vote will be CM) did the ‘thing’ to bury Gerakan in Penang.. Not even DAP and LGE expected that to happen. NO one would have thought that a party with so many years of history and such deep roots in Penang would be up-rooted and wiped out so completely.
This is just an example of how the behaviour and speeches of leaders and members of a party can affect the voting pattern in the run-up of an election.
I have seen people changing their decision last minute because they think that the candidate’s picture looks very ‘sombong’ (arrogant). That is why the first thing many candidates do is to get a professional photographer who will take literally hundreds of their photographs and then let the campaign team choose the most presentable one for the banners and pamphlets.
I have come across a voter whom when i tried to convince him to vote for certain candidate telling me that he would not vote for that person because he felt snubbed by the candidate once during a function many months ago when the candidate did not shake his hand on passing him.
( Even within party election, some members would not vote for a certain person standing for certain party positions just because ‘that fellow has not treated the member a cup of coffee before”.. This is a true incident.. and this is the reason many members gave for not voting a certain person during the state party election in 2005 of a certain party. You may think this is trifle but this is human nature too).
There are of course many voters who will vote for a candidate/party because of a sewing machine gift, or even a RM50 angpow. But that type is more among the rural areas and semi rural and not among the urban crowds that I am more familiar with.
That is why most of the campaigners would be told to smile, shake every hand ( but not that of a Muslim lady), endure all sorts of abuses that may come their way.
Those who drive campaign cars are volunteers in name, but in fact they are paid an allowance that would be the envy of a taxi driver. This ensures that they are happy and polite.
While these ‘last-minute-decision-maker’ is only a small proportion, with most voters already made up their minds, in a democratic system where every vote counts, these minority as a group may become the one that decides the outcome in a close contest.
That is why no one must be arrogant even when he or she has the upper hand in a campaign.
This is the practical aspect of a campaign… And unfortunately this is part and parcel of politics.