Sunday, May 26

A Game of Votes


No vote buying, petty political games or political Game of Thrones chatter.

Instead, let us look, with non partisan eyes, at voters, through that old Game Theory so beloved of political analysts and mathematicians alike.

What is Game Theory? In a nutshell, it is how rational ‘players’ make rational choices based on given circumstances. Basically, how would Sarawakians choose to cast their vote in this game of votes, given the sudden flood of information?

Note the word ‘rational.’ We assume ourselves to be rational, but are we? We are bombarded by information, from social media, news and conversations, which sometimes makes us irrational. Rational is reasoned, and reasoned is well informed without overt bias.

The ‘choice’ is rational voting, but what are the circumstances?

For starters: timing. Our state elections are held differently from federal elections. We assume we are the oddity, but we are not special. The Australian federal and state elections are held at different times.

Why? A similar reason to Sarawak’s case: we had different election dates prior to federation. Keep this ‘circumstance’ in mind.

Next: options.The BN coalition contests in every seat, whereas the DAP PKR coalition does not, with only 65 seats out of 82, including the ones where they oppose each other. Again, keep this in mind.

Third: priorities. The BN manifesto is ‘development friendly.’The DAP PKR manifestois ‘lifestyle/finance friendly.’ Apart from a few divergent views here and there, both have somewhat similar manifestos; the major differences being infrastructure and royalties. Again, this ‘circumstance’ will be important.

Lastly: perspective. Chief Minister Adenan not too far back emphasised a difference between representatives who want to represent the people at a state and at a federal level. One cannot do both. This distinction is crucial.

So, how do these disparate pieces connect? Timing and perspective.Scandals plague the federal administration, but would the state results make an impact there? Some have argued it is a barometer of Prime Minister Najib’s popularity, but we are constantly reminded that a vote in Sarawak in 2016 is a vote for Adenan, not Najib.

A vote against Adenan does not necessarily mean Najib would back down.

Remember that yellow shirt incident in August last year? Options and priorities are closely interlinked.

The option is between a ruling coalition and an opposition which seems to be unable to keep its house in order due to differing positions.

Coalitions are usually formed after elections and can be dissolved, where partners in power can be adversaries in elections.

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats were not negotiating seats during the UK 2015 elections, even though they were in a coalition previously. We should not get too worked up over it.

This option and priority also bleeds to an urban rural division.

The DAP seems to contest primarily in urban areas, and their manifesto reflects that.

The PKR base is broader, which widens their manifesto beyond the urban. When looking at the states they govern, their focus is more on urban, as opposed to rural, requirements.

Some may comment that they ‘pick and choose’ based on winning chances. Perhaps, but anything can change based on local circumstances and the right push.

Sarawak has a growing urban population, but these urbanites may have strong links with the rural. They know that they need to factor in the cost of living, and they know they need to guard their rights, be it for land, the environment or natural resources.

Their choice and their attention are divided with all the information they are bombarded with.

These voters know the urban cores would not be neglected. Kuching is the capital, and things will be built.

Miri has natural wealth, so investment will flow. Yet they also know the rural areas need basic infrastructure.

Do they go for a coalition that built roads to the hinterlands, with a certain timing, or a coalition which promises a railway and enhanced internet coverage, depending on circumstances?

Perspective and priorities affect this strategic choice. Do we want improved local security and free buses, or better infrastructure for our not so urban kin? We need to weigh both interests equally.

Interests need to be checked, and there is always a need for a check and balance.

A company’s accounts are audited. Exams are externally marked. Why not a check on interests, in a democratic system? Whichever way we look at it, remember, this a state election.

Sure, we have vested interests, be it urban or rural, but we should also be rational, and see our circumstances with a wider perspective.

p.s. Can we call the Chief Minister’s Office the Iron(wood) Throne though? #ironwoodthrone

Jason GinesAnom, LL.B. (1st Class Hons, Northumbria), has a slight fascination with Tyrion’s application of game theory.