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The price of spoilt votes

  • It may be too late crying over spilled milk if we give up our constitutional right to vote.

By LIM SUE GOAN
Sin Chew Daily

Before the election date is even announced, there have been talks whether we should cast spolit votes in the election. The #undirosak campaign should be deliberated from the democratic point of view.

One of the campaigners told Sin Chew Daily if the campaign gains momentum, it is very likely that neither of the two major political camps will bag more than 50% of votes, and a "weak government" will ensue whoever takes helm at Putrajaya.

This is exactly what these people have wanted: to eventually return the power to the people so that they can decide how the government is to be run.

We cannot deny that casting spoilt votes is itself a right of voters, and we currently do not have any law to stop people from doing so. Nevertheless, attempting to achieve this end by rallying the public to cast spoilt votes is overly idealistic in our existing political environment.

First and foremost, both BN and PH have their own die-hard fans, and only a small fraction of undecided voters may echo the calls to cast spoilt votes. Consequently, either side will hardly heed the campaign which itself lacks systematic organization and strategy.

Secondly, politicians are most concerned about their own interests, and will not bother to please a small group of people just to expand their own influences.

What is worrying is that the spoilt vote campaign would likely backfire in the end, sinking the country further into commotion.

Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has cautioned that many people see a hung parliament as a possibility after GE14. If the number of seats won by the two major rival camps are too close, ship jumping may become rife. No one will take the people's voices seriously, as seizing of power is way more important.

While many still believe BN will cling on to power after the election, the current situation appears to be increasingly unfavorable to the ruling coalition due to skyrocketing goods prices and worsening market sentiment on the back of higher interest rates. Moreover, Mahathir is an expert in fanning public emotion, and the timing could be on PH's side.

If the votes won by both sides are very, very close, impact from the spoilt vote campaign could be detrimental, like in the UK Brexit vote and US presidential election.

In the June 23, 2016 referendum, Brexit supporters came out in droves to vote while young Britons stayed out.

The final outcome swang in favor of the Brexit side, and young people swore that they had been "betrayed".

Consequently, massive numbers of youngsters took to the street while 3.2 million people unhappy with the results signed an online petition for a second referendum.

But, it's too late!

In the November 2016 US presidential election, only 56.9% of voters cast their votes. Some 43.1% of voters stayed away from polling stations, and only a quarter of eligible voters actually voted for Donald Trump.

Before the election, Americans generally felt they had two rotten apples to pick, a madman and a swindler, and they didn't want to see either candidate make it to the White House.

Young urban voters were unmotivated, but Trump's rural working class supporters came out in droves to vote.

After the results were released, Americans protested across the country against Trump's election.

Americans were not the only people to take the brunt of the election of a substandard leader, the entire global community was dragged along with it.

As such, some countries have laws to make it compulsory for registered voters to vote because they don't want the final election results to be dictated by absenteeism or spoilt votes, and for a leader lacking strong popular backing to be elected.

Democracy is a long-winding journey that will only thrive with persistence and active participation by all. Giving up the constitutional right to vote will disrupt the democratic process, like what has happened in the United States.

There is quite a substantial number of Malaysians who are not prepared to exercise their rights to vote. Around 3.8 million eligible Malaysian citizens have yet to register as voters, mostly young people.

During the last general election, Pakatan Rakyat won 5,623,984 popular votes against BN's 5,237,699 at a difference of 386,285 votes. If these people come out and vote this time, they can absolutely be the "kingmakers" of the election.

We have missed some precious opportunities to reform this country owing to a number of human factors. As a result, the country has been plunged into the quagmire of endless racist politics.

There are bound to be weaknesses in any democratic or electoral system, but if we allow emotions to take charge, they could very much alter the final outcome and bring disastrous consequences. We may need another five years or much longer to undo our mistake.

 

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