Election fever is back! You log onto Facebook or turn on the television and you’re force fed political jargon, campaign advertisements and countless news reports of mud-slinging politicians.
You decide to take a drive and there it is! Endless lines of flags along roads, wrapped around trees and simply taking over that neighbourhood that you once knew as being quite tidy.
Then we have the all-time election staple: the ‘ceramahs’. If you don’t know what that is by now, these are political talks organised by the competing parties. We often look forward (or dread) to these talks because it can be entertaining, funny and more importantly, educational.
We’ve joined the ceramah bandwagon and compiled ten tips for ceramah attendees – veterans or first timers – which we hope will be useful.
1. Makan first before heading to a ceramah:
• Political talks don’t necessarily start on time as organisers have to wait for candidates, celebrities, speakers and personalities like Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim or caretaker Prime Minister Najib Razak to show up. They may be held up at earlier functions, so usually a ceramah does not start until the ‘big star’ arrives. So waiting on a full stomach is always better. Alternatively, bring some goreng pisang or keropok to keep you going.
A small crowd attend a PAS ceramah in Pulai, Johor
2. Patience is a virtue
• This is where Malaysia’s famous ‘rubber time’ is demonstrated in its full glory. Be patient. Speakers may be delayed or sometimes organisers may run into issues with authorities in securing permission to hold the event. Be prepared to wait it out.
3. Use public transport
• Ceramahs often draw large crowds, sometimes in the hundreds if not thousands of people. Malaysians are famous for driving everywhere, and if they can park next to the stage where the ceramah is set to take place, they would. Don’t get caught in congestion. Use the LRT, buses or car-pool. Or perhaps, park your car a distance away and be prepared to do something different this time. Walk.
A man reading a campaign leaflet in Sabah.
• Take some time to skim through the headlines on Yahoo! Malaysia’s news page or on our Twitter feed. This will help you understand certain issues and help you relate to them as the speakers will be debating about these matters during these sessions.
5. Stay hydrated
• Don’t worry, attending a ceramah is not like running a marathon. However, at times these events are held in the oddest of places. We went to one organised by PKR over the weekend and literally sat on the road to listen to the political speeches. So bring a bottle of water, as most of these events are held outside in fields, set up on public roads or at open-air car parks. Venues are difficult to secure during elections, so political parties will do anything to reach out to the rakyat.
• Mosquito repellent is useful, a battery-operated fan or a handheld one if the organisers fail to provide properly ventilated venues for you. An umbrella or raincoat will be useful as well on rainy evenings. A camera or your smartphone is handy too, to record the speeches or any incidents that may happen during these talks.
Anwar Ibrahim talking at a gathering in Perak
7. Stay alert
• Political talks can fire up emotions and sometimes, opposing camps may set up their tents close to each other to drown each other out. While it is fun to watch the parties battle it out over loudhailers, the situation can get ugly. Stay alert and know where your exits are, so you can leave the place safely.
8. Learn your mother tongue
• Malaysians are multi-lingual and at these ceramahs, speakers will use everything and anything to convince people that they should be voted in the next government. Brush up on your Mandarin, Tamil or even Bahasa Iban so you can follow their arguments during the sessions.
Flags of the ruling coalition BN at Bangsar Utama, Kuala Lumpur
9. Listen to both sides
• Even though you’ve made up your mind about who you will be voting for this elections, try and attend ceramahs organised by the opposing parties. It is always useful to have broader perspectives on issues that matter to you most.
AFP PHOTO/TENGKU BAHAR
10. Be prepared to have fun
• Elections is about winning the hearts and minds of the rakyat, so be prepared to listen to funny speeches, emotional pleas and even provocative debates. Don’t be afraid to challenge the speakers if you disagree with them. Remember, YOU hold the power to choose your next government.