LAST_UPDATESun, 20 May 2018 9pm

The True Story Of #UndiRosak: Who Stands To Gain Or Lose

During Malaysia’s 2004 General Election, or as it’s popularly known the PRU11, something monumental happened. In the race for the Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) seat for Kemuning, Kelantan, only two votes were the difference between winning and losing.

In that elections, PAS’ candidate, Zakaria Yaacob, won the seat with a slight majority of only two votes, beating Wan Mohamad Zin Mat Amin, Barisan Nasional’s candidate for the seat.

The saga of the two votes continued to unravel, as in December 2005, the by-elections for the Pengkalan Pasir DUN seat was held. The seat, which was held by PAS since 1990, was unexpectedly won by BN’s candidate, Hanafi Mamat. What’s so interesting about this by-election though?

If the Kemuning seat was won by BN, the Pengkalan Pasir By-elections result would have meant that Kelantan would’ve been administered by the BN government, instead of PAS.

Two votes, made all the difference in a whole state.

This tale is usually used by politicians and activists to show the people the strength of their votes, and why all of us that are eligible to vote should come out and vote in the next general elections, which is the PRU14.

But what if the bulk of the people who has registered, decide to spoil their votes instead?

This is what politicians are facing with the #UndiRosak movement.

In case you have been out of the loop, the #UndiRosak movement is a movement that calls on voters to go out and vote, but instead of voting for any candidates, the #UndiRosak movement calls on voters to spoil their votes.

Why go through all the fuss of registering to vote just to cast a spoilt vote?

Strangely, both sides of the political divide have denied having anything to do with this movement. Instead, the movement garners support through social media platforms, gathering steam purportedly anonymously online.

Supporters And Detractors Of #UndiRosak Voice Their Stance

Maryam Lee who was among the spokesperson during the #UndiRosak forum, titled “Undi Rosak: Kau Nak Apa Sebenarnya?” shared her insights with Malaysian Digest.

Maryam LeeMaryam Lee

Maryam revealed that the true purpose of #UndiRosak is to level the playing field, and start telling the political parties that they need to start listening to the people.

“The main purpose of #undirosak is to elevate the discourse surrounding politics to a different level.

“Voting is in fact the weakest form of democratic expression. It can be manipulated, extorted, bribed, and rigged to ensure victory for those with power and capital,” said Maryam.

Maryam’s frustration regarding the political system is due to the fact that she feels the politicians only see the people as a commodity, as votes waiting to be won.

The elderly, the sick, the young are excluded, she lamented, going out to vent her frustration at the opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan, for taking urban voters for granted.

“Pakatan also does not get to be entitled to free votes just because BN needs to go. Voters in urban Semenanjung areas are not "fixed deposits" who will just take what PH says as gospel,” she remarked.

Maryam further points out that deliberately spoiling your vote is different from boycotting the election.

“Because spoiling your vote is a legitimate form of expressing dissent.

"We never really know what people would actually do come voting day, but the discourse on elections should go beyond just voting and talk about real democratic participation, as well as demanding accountability from politicians on what they’ve promised,” she opines, adding that voters can always opt for other avenues like voting for an independent

Maryam summed up that “UndiRosak allows everyday people to demand accountability from their representatives, their politicians, as they should" and wanted "politicians to work harder for the rakyat money we pay them with" she concluded.

So is the aim of the #UndiRosak movement just to 'threaten' to spoil the vote to get politicians to understand that voters are not commodities?

Another political activist, Jason Kay, also shared with Malaysian Digest why he supports the movement.In the 2016 US presidential election, only 56.9% of American voters cast their votes and data reveals that means only a quarter of eligible voters actually voted for Donald Trump - SinChew DailyIn the 2016 US presidential election, only 56.9% of American voters cast their votes and data reveals that means only a quarter of eligible voters actually voted for Donald Trump - SinChew Daily

“If the voter is not happy with all the candidates in his/her constituency, or if the voter is not happy with the political parties contesting in his/her constituency, then not choosing either A or B is a valid thing to do,” said Jason.

But Jason also said that caution should be exercised when casting a spoilt vote.

“However, when presented with more than 2 choices, say A, B and C (or more), then by all means please pick C, or D, etc, if you feel C or D, etc can represent you best. Purposely doing #UndiRosak for its own sake is idiotic if you are happy with C or D and want C or D to represent you,” Jason opined.

Asked if this move is undemocratice and idealistic, Jason disagrees because besides consciously spoiling a vote is to declare that s/he is not happy with the choices offered, there is a second more potent message.

“The second message, if that voter wishes to take it a step further, can come in the form of a short message on the ballot paper directed to both candidates A and B (or, if you like, to their respective parties). This short message will definitely be read by the counting officer and the observers for candidates A and B when that vote is counted. Even for a few seconds, that short message on that ballot paper will be read. Imagine if hundreds, if not thousands, of those ballot papers having those personalised short messages,” Jason elaborated.

Jason concluded by stating that this shows the disappointment among the #UndiRosak voters towards both parties.

When the margin of victory is small, like the example in PRU11 in Kelantan, the impact of spoilt votes could be detrimental like the UK 2016 referendum where Brexit supporters came out in big numbers to vote resulting in a swing in favour of Brexit. Filepic: TwitterWhen the margin of victory is small, like the example in PRU11 in Kelantan, the impact of spoilt votes could be detrimental like the UK 2016 referendum where Brexit supporters came out in big numbers to vote resulting in a swing in favour of Brexit. Filepic: Twitter“This is democracy at its finest. This is the true meaning of the people having a voice, because that voice will be heard, even if it is only for a few seconds (when that particular ballot is counted). A spoilt vote is recorded in the official results."

But just like any movement, #UndiRosak is not without it’s critics, and detractors.

Firdaus, who has been vocal about his disapproval of #UndiRosak believes the movement is selfish indulgence and should not be followed by anyone.

“If you look at most of the supporters of #UndiRosak, they are the people who are privileged, and could afford to not care about the political scene in Malaysia.

“They fail to realize that if they continue to squander their votes, this will let oppressors rise, and the people that will be affected is the people who are improverished, the people who are oppressed by the political parties,” Firdaus implored.

Although he does not view the movement as undemocratic, he does see it as misusing our rights as a voter.

“We are given the power to vote to ensure that we can choose the correct people to govern us, and ensure that all Malaysians are not stepped on by the ones in power. But instead of using this power vested in them, they choose to throw it away by casting a spoilt vote. To me, that’s a big waste,” opined Firdaus.

He suggested voters use other options where possible.

“If they do not agree with the parties that are in power, then why not they run themselves? Or perhaps they can support the independent politicians, or the smaller parties? There are a lot of alternatives, so I hope that they can reconsider,” Firdaus added.

BN Blames The Opposition For #UndiRosak, While The Opposition Says They Can’t Please Everyone

While the movement has found traction among netizens and activists, but politicians have been wary to engage in the discourse but some have chosen to voice out their reservations.

Berita Harian reported that the President of PAS, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has stated that the #UndiRosak campaign is clearly against the norms of Islam, as Islam puts politics and choosing a leader as part of the religion.

Meanwhile, Hannah Yeoh from DAP has also rejected the #UndiRosak movement, posting on her Facebook page a quote that reads; “Evil triumphes when good men spoil their votes. #JanganUndiRosak”.

Meanwhile, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan was quoted as saying that the #UndiRosak campaign was started by the opposition.

So in order to get to the bottom of the issue, I decided to call a couple politicians from both sides of the political divide, to see what they think of the #UndiRosak movement.

First, I contacted Datuk Armand Azha Abu Hanifah, an UMNO Youth Exco for his thoughts regarding the movement.

Much like Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Datuk Armand says that the #UndiRosak movement came from the opposition.

Datuk Armand Azha Abu HanifahDatuk Armand Azha Abu Hanifah

“They are afraid because they know that the on-the-fence voters are now seeing Barisan Nasional (BN) as the right party for them. So they organized this movement to persuade those who are on-the-fence to not come out and vote,” said Datuk Armand.

He also believes that the #UndiRosak movement is in retaliation of the growing support among the youngsters and the on-the-fence voters that are now seeing Barisan Nasional as the right choice.

“#UndiRosak, is simply put, disrespecting the democracy of the country. Much like I said earlier, this movement comes from the opposition who does not want the people on-the-fence to vote on the issue.

“In the end, what does the people want? They want a government that can run a country properly, listen to what they have to say, and understand their aspirations? Or they want a government that promises great things, but is it at all possible?

“For example, the opposition promises to abolish GST, to give free education, but look at the state level. Is all that implemented? Instead, the Assessment of the land in Penang and Selangor is now the highest in Malaysia,” said Dr Armand.

Meanwhile, the DAP Youth Chief, Wong Kah Woh chose to address the issue in an entirely different direction.

When contacted by Malaysian Digest, Wong Kah Woh said that he acknowledges the choice the #UndiRosak movement has made, but he hopes that they understand the true gravity behind their choice.

“We respect their choice, but we hope that they will also acknowledge that spoiling the votes will not help in turning the nation away from a kleptocrats administration,” said Wong.

When asked if both sides have failed to represent the people, which led to the #UndiRosak campaign ‘due to the voters’ frustration of both parties, Wong does not agree.

“I don't agree that we (the PH) have failed to represent the interest of the majority. We cannot satisfy everyone, and it is the majority voices that we have to take care of. Our performance in Penang & Selangor Gov have proven that we are and can be a good government,” said Wong.

But Wong also acknowledged that they are far from perfect.

“We cannot see or judge things in a perfect / idealistic way. Being politicians, we always have to make decision in non-ideal situation but people will judge us with ideal mind.

“No decision will favour everyone and same goes to some decision that weren't that welcomed by the #UndiRosak movement,” he concluded.

When speaking about #UndiRosak movement, most of us will agree that the movement really started to pick up in popularity right after the Pakatan Harapan announced that the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will be the Prime Minister again, if PH wins.

Most people did not agree with the choice, and saw it as the PH going back on their word and principles, by backing Tun Mahathir for the position.

But Wong sees it differently.

“Malaysia is not a normal democratic country, winning 50% of the popular votes doesn't mean you will win election. Perhaps our work together with Tun has aggravated the sentiment, but this is the brave step that we have to take in the current political situation.

“Most importantly, we never go against our principle, and it is also to be emphasised that even Tun M has now agreed to commit to a full institutional reform for the nation - abolishment of draconian laws, independence of Attorney General + Judiciary and many more,” concluded Wong.

Based on the politicians’ views, we can see that both of them agrees in one point, that the #UndiRosak movement does more harm than good.

While activists and politicians are regarded as impartial bystanders, perhaps political analysts can bring some clarity to this controversial movement.

Experts Reveal Who Stands To Gain Or Lose With #UndiRosak

Profesor Dr. Ahmad Atory Hussain, said that casting spoilt votes is not something that is new actually.

Prof Dr Ahmad Atory HusseinProf Dr Ahmad Atory Hussein

“Spoilt votes are not new actually. It is something that has been around for a long time. For example, before this in PRU13, Johor recorded the most spoilt votes. But before this, there was no movement to support, or to encourage spoilt votes like there is now,” said Professor Dr Atory.

When asked whether the movement is a good thing or bad thing, he said that it’s a matter of perception.

“Like I said, before this there was no one pushing for spoilt votes, but now there is. And the movement claims that the spoilt votes are so that they can voice out their unhappiness with the choices they have. If that’s the case, then it is a good thing,” he said.

He also acknowledges that the movement will ultimately benefit the party that holds the status quo.

“This means that the advantage will stay with the ruling party,” Prof Dr Atory summed up the endgame, adding that ultimately a democracy allows voters to spoil their votes if that is what they want.

Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, a professor in Political Sociology from USM concurs with Prof Dr Atory and shared his insight with a particular example.

Dr Sivamurugan PandianDr Sivamurugan Pandian

“Spoilt votes are nothing new. If you check the statistics, you can see that there are a lot of constituencies where the spoilt votes actually outnumber the majority margin of the winning candidates,” said Dr Sivamurugan.

One of these constituency is Cameron Highlands, who had a majority of 462, but the number of spoilt votes is almost double this, with 877 spoilt votes.

When asked for an alternative for #UndiRosak, Dr Sivamurugan also agreed with some of the earlier points, which is why not try running themselves, or throw their support for an independent candidate.

“Finally, I also think that there are three factors that influence someone’s vote. First is the Party running, the candidates for the parties, and thirdly is the issue. If someone is not happy with all the choices regarding all three of these factors, then they might see it as worth their time to participate in the #UndiRosak movement.

“As we can see, there are quite a number of people who are not happy with all these in both the major parties. So I think that #UndiRosak will make a major impact come elections time,” Dr Sivamurugan points out.

One pivotal figure who has become the voice of conscience spanning the political divide in this discourse is the founder of Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM), Badrul Hisham Shaharin, or as he’s more popularly known as Che’gu Bard.

Chegu BardChegu Bard

He shared his passionate view with Malaysian Digest that the #UndiRosak movement is the signal for a new age of politics in Malaysia.

“This #UndiRosak movement is fascinating because it has no leader, no campaigns, no roadshows, no launching, nothing, but it still manages to gain traction, and garner support from the people.

“Why? Because all of them share the same sentiments, that they are tired of being made fools by politicians. They believe that there is no good option among the people they can choose from, so they chose to cast a spoilt vote,” said Che’gu Bard.

Che’gu Bard also believes that this means that gone are the days where there are traditional seats,or fortress constituencies for some parties.

“I think that there will be some major upsets. #UndiRosak shows that the traditional politics are being removed, and that there are no safe seats anymore for any party. Gone are the days where Barisan Nasional can place literally anyone as their candidate and they will still win. Gone are the days where in urban communities, the people will vote anyone as long as they don’t vote for Barisan Nasional.

“Now, if they are not happy with any of the candidates, if they believe none of them deserve any votes, they will just cast a spoilt vote,” said Che’gu Bard.

Che’gu Bard also said that in order to placate the #UndiRosak movement, the political parties need to stop being so bullish, and start listening to the people.

“They do not want to listen to them. When the issue of #UndiRosak came out, both parties started bashing, fear-mongering, scaring other voters from following in their footsteps, None of them approached these voters, and asked them what are they doing wrong,” said Che’gu Bard.

“The politicians need to stop treating the voters as if they’re dumb,” Che’gu Bard concluded.

Now, after reading the opinions of supporters, detractors, politicians with vested interests and experts, perhaps we can come to a decision in an informed manner, and perhaps cast our votes in the way we feel that are most responsible.

After all, it is our votes that will determine the direction the country will head in the next five years so choose wisely.