There is a campaign calling for voters to boycott elections or deliberately spoil their votes during the 14th General Election (GE14) called #UndiRosak
The hashtag #UndiRosak emerged on social media and even trended on Twitter recently, as supporters of the campaign are voicing out their opinion on how boycotting or deliberately making their votes spoilt is a sign of protest and discontent.
For many, this sentiment seems to stem from the notion that that both ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) deserve their votes as they do not believe that any of these coalitions could bring systemic changes.
These people are mostly saying that they refuse to choose either one of the parties and would rather turn up and spoil their votes on polling day
The #UndiRosak campaign, which is said to be a popular idea among young voters, champions the idea of not abstaining from voting but instead encouraging people to cast their votes and exercise democracy.
However, at the same time, these voters would make sure to deliberately make markings on their respective ballot to make it invalid, so that it is still counted as a vote, but a spoilt one.
This movement was said to have intensified after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was recently named as PH's prime ministerial candidate.
Meanwhile, Tun Dr Mahathir claims that this is an attempt by UMNO to ensure BN's victory
The former prime minister urged voters not to fall for UMNO's ploy during a press conference on Tuesday, 23 January.
"Many of the calls to boycott the election come from UMNO, who say there is no difference between PH and Najib (Razak), so they tell voters not to vote or to destroy their voting slip," he was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today.
"Every vote counts. This is why we are against the boycott. If you boycott the election, you are keeping Najib as your prime minister," he added.
Meanwhile, the PH presidential council also issued a statement, saying that the act of boycotting elections or spoiling votes would only benefit BN.
"PH respects the opinion of these groups, but we urge them to realise that this is only suitable in a fair democracy. In Malaysia’s present situation, this will only serve to punish PH and benefit BN," the PH leaders said in the statement, as reported by Malay Mail Online.
Heated social media discussions are ongoing about the issue
In the cyberspace, netizens have participated in debates on the topic of #UndiRosak. While there were many who said that #UndiRosak is counter-intuitive with some even labelling spoilers as "cowards", many have also defended #UndiRosak saying that it is a voice to demand for "real changes".
The campaign has drawn mixed responses so far
Some were supportive of the movement, saying that this is a fresh idea for disgruntled voters to make their feelings known and send a message to the people in power.
Political activist Edy Noor Reduan wrote in an article published on Free Malaysia Today that PH settling on Mahathir as its candidate for prime minister, was only one of the factors that was driving this movement as people were also fed up with "the EC that is biased with its populist manifesto and never-ending corruption".
Edy also refuted PH and Mahathir's allegations that BN would benefit from #UndiRosak since no one can be sure if ballots from these voters were actually returning votes to PH.
"In my opinion, #UndiRosak is a new educational campaign for voters at the bottom, and a useful lesson for politicians on top," he wrote.
On the other hand, some people don't think that the act of spoiling votes is a voice of dissent and instead questioned why people are being "wasteful" of their voting rights.
The Malaysian Insight reported Hisommuddin Bakar, executive director of the Ilham Centre think tank, as saying that anti-GE14 campaigners talks are "based on emotions and sentiments" without offering solutions to the current issues.
"For instance, they reject Dr Mahathir but what has that got to do with policies that affect the people? Can they also be indifferent if Prime Minister Najib Razak stays in power for another term?"
"This is a baseless campaign. Rational and objective voters, who will assess which side to give the mandate to, will not throw away their votes by protesting," Hisommuddin was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, some have also stressed that it is up to voters how they exercise their own democratic right to vote
The Star Online reported civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan as saying that the act of not voting, boycotting or spoiling votes are all "part and parcel" of democracy.
He pointed out that it is not mandatory for citizens to vote in general elections in Malaysia, unlike in Australia.
"In Malaysia, there is no such law. I don't see anything wrong with such an action."
There are still questions on the implications of such a movement on the upcoming general elections
Dr. Khoo Ying Hooi, Senior Lecturer at the Department of International and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social wrote on The Diplomat, "A spoilt-vote campaign that results in lower voter turnout is a possibility, especially among urban youths, who are more likely to be either fence-sitters; voters with political affiliations who want to show their displeasure to both parties; or those seeking to indicate a lack of trust that either party can effectively run the country.
"Now, the question is how significant of an impact the spoilt-vote campaign will have in the upcoming general election."
Malay Mail Online columnist Praba Ganesan suggested that these spoilers - active participants in political discussions and debates - matter, and they could possibly play a significant role in the betterment of the political scene
Writing in his column, the chief executive at NGO Kuasa, said that these group of people care enough to travel out to a polling station to vote to send a political message, and they shouldn't be taken lightly.
"Perhaps a bit more transparency along with party elections, and far less hidden hands and subjectivity in management, within the political parties out of power can rejuvenate them for national campaigns.
"These dissenters can be the missing cog to the mystery of how to finally win a national election."
Do you think the #UndiRosak movement will have a significant impact on GE14? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
While we're on the topic of elections, the outreach offficer of Bersih has alleged that the Election Commission (EC) has taken various actions and decisions that made the electoral system worse: