The 14th General Election that we've all been waiting for is finally (almost) here.
The flags are up, candidates dah turun padang, and we're all excited to see how things will pan out in the 'mother of all elections'.
While social media is abuzz with talk of GE14 and we're waiting to cast our votes come 9 May, I'd like to drag your attention to one of the most interesting aspects of a political campaign, the political ceramah (speech).
Some may want to give it a pass, assuming that it's only for people who are completely immersed in politics and not wanting to be part of the hoo-ha but I assure you, an election campaign ceramah is not only for the politically-inclined.
It's an experience that can provide useful insight into the inner world of politics for voters.
1. Get up close and personal with the candidates before you decide on who'll govern your area and the country for the next five years
Given the nature of their work, it's not everyday you get to see politicians turn up at the padang behind your house or the kopitiams in town. Most often, you only get a glimpse of them during the election period, so savour this golden moment!
Listen to what they have to say about the political party they represent and how they plan to best serve the community in the upcoming years.
Trust me, it's a totally different experience from reading it on your phone or computer screen. This is when they either speak from the heart or start throwing sweet, sweet (sometimes impractical) promises.
It's like the election period brings out the best and worst in politicians and ceramahs are usually where it all spills out. See them in their element, give them a chance to tell you in person the future they envision for Malaysia.
2. Memorable campaign speeches
Most politicians are wordsmiths. If you're someone who thinks that they're boring, going to a ceramah will change your mind. It actually takes a lot of effort to deliver a believable, inspiring speech.
Oftentimes, it's the usual, "my opponent is terrible, vote for me instead" speech, where the candidate is screaming instead of talking, but sometimes you get lucky.
One of the best ceramahs I heard recently was from former Subang Jaya state assemblyperson Hannah Yeoh.
Sometimes, it's the calmest, most genuine speeches that will bring tears of promise and hope to your eyes.
3. Get a sense of what the masses around the area feel about the political climate. Suss it out.
Once you get the details on where and when the ceramah will be, turn up early. Find a good spot that allows you to move around and also interact with the candidates and other speech goers.
It's important and interesting to know how other people in a community feel about a candidate. Arm yourself with all the necessary information before making a choice.
I think you can glean quite a bit from social media on the overall sentiment of voters about a political party or a candidate. But it's when you're standing in the middle of a crowded ceramah space, that you'll most likely hear the whispers of support or dislike towards a candidate.
Are they getting tired of the incumbent leader? How hopeful are they about the brand new candidate they know little about? Or are they there just to kill time or see the star candidate of a political party?
Also, bear in mind that the size of the crowd at political ceramahs may not accurately reflect the true sentiment of voters.
4. It's exhilarating. Nothing rouses your senses like a crowd!
Ceramahs are fun! It's exciting, sort of like watching a badminton match in a mamak with everyone.
For the first time in a long time, Malaysians are excited and more involved in politics than ever before and campaign ceramahs are where it all comes to life.
Some may call it idealistic or pin it on the election fever, but there's something amazing about standing with other hopeful Malaysians while cheering the candidates on to lead us towards a better Malaysia.
5. It's the responsible thing to do
Objectively speaking, attending a ceramah is just part and parcel of becoming a politically aware voter.
It'll even give you a chance to voice out your thoughts in person to relevant individuals. That's one step closer to helping our leaders understand our needs and feelings.
So, don't disassociate yourself from political events or only go for the ones lead by the parties you support, give both sides a chance and hear them out.
If you're not sure where to start or where to go, just check out the social media pages of election candidates and political parties to find details of a ceramah near you.
To sum up, be an active participant in politics and on polling day, make a wise decision because your vote matters!
Happy voting! :)
Speaking of elections, here are more GE14 stories on SAYS: