Will #SpoiltVote Impact Malaysia’s Upcoming General Election?

February 1, 2018

Will #SpoiltVote Impact Malaysia’s Upcoming General Election?


Image result for GE-14 Najib vs Mahathir
Image result for najib razak and rosmah mansorPrime Minister Najib Razak and his Shaman-backed Political Advisor and Strategist Rosmah Mansor: She will decide on timing of GE-14


All eyes are watching as this year will mark arguably the most competitive Malaysian election in history: a battle between the ruling BN and opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), of which former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is now the chairman.

Both the incumbent and the aspirants have been aggressively campaigning since last year to win over the electorate. Having ruled the country for decades, the BN suffered its worst result in the 2013 general election, when it not only lost the popular vote, but also failed to recapture its two-thirds majority in the parliament. The past few years have not been comfortable for the BN, with headlines over the 1MDB scandal, allegedly involving Prime Minister Najib Razak, coupled with rising living costs to put a lot of pressure on the administration.


In the first week of January, PH leaders unanimously announced that Mahathir Mohamad will be the coalition’s candidate for the post of Prime Minister if the coalition wins the 2018 general election, with Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, as the candidate for the post of Deputy Prime Minister.

This announcement triggered debate and sparked dissatisfaction among some people, including some grassroots leaders within the PH, the 1998 Reformist members, and civil society groups. This dissatisfaction over the PH sparked the emergence of a spoilt-vote campaign, mainly among ethnic Chinese and Malay social media circles. The campaign calls for voters to either boycott the polls or to cast spoiled ballots to protest the lack of choice and their distrust in the compromised political system. Using online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, these spoilt-vote campaigners started spreading their message under various hashtags, such as #UndiRosak or #SpoiltVote.

This trend caused concerns among the PH leaders and some civil society groups, particularly those championing electoral awareness. The spoilt-vote campaign, if it is successful, would likely to reinforce the current electoral system and could directly affect the PH’s chances in many parliamentary and state seats, giving disproportionate empowerment to the BN. This is mainly due to the fact that the BN has the benefit of entrenched support and better machinery, such as control over mainstream media.

Image result for Ambiga Sreenevasan

Ambiga Sreenevasan (pic above), former Chairperson of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or Bersih movement, was one such voice raising concerns over the campaign. In response, she tweeted, “Let me be clear. Boycotting an election may send a message where the elections are clean and fair. Where the elections are NOT clean and fair (as in our country), boycotting only helps those in power and works AGAINST the people who are trying to change the rotten system.”

The 2008 general election, popularly known as the “political tsunami,” was the first time since 1969 that BN lost its two-thirds majority in the parliament. Voter turnout was high, at 76 percent. Voter turnout then rose to 86 percent in 2013, the highest ever in a Malaysian election. As a result, the BN lost the popular vote to the now defunct Pakatan Rakyat (PR), but was able to retain power with almost 60 percent of parliamentary seats.

Currently, Malaysia’s population stands at 30 million, but many have not made their voice heard. According to statistics from the Election Commission (EC) as of September 2017, there are around 14.8 million registered voters. There were another approximately 3.6 million people aged 21 and above who were eligible but have not registered themselves as voters. These statistics show that many Malaysians who are eligible to vote are either ignorant of their civic duty or abdicating the power to vote.

A recent survey titled, “Youth Perception on Economy, Leadership and Current Issues,” conducted jointly by the Merdeka Centre and Watan, a youth voter registration NGO, between August 3 to 8 last year also found that only 30 percent of the youths polled cared about politics. The rest were more concerned about the economy. Of the 604 respondents aged between 21 and 30, 57 percent felt that the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Related image
A low voter turnout in GE-14, Najib will win hands down


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.

Khoo Ying Hooi (Ph.D.) is Senior Lecturer at the Department of International and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya.


13 thoughts on “Will #SpoiltVote Impact Malaysia’s Upcoming General Election?

  1. “Now, the question is how significant of an impact the spoilt-vote campaign will have in the upcoming general election.”

    I figure it works both ways – for the dirty, filthy scoundrels in UMNObN and the blinkered, fractious oblivious in the Oppo. Same, with stuck in the camel-hole PAS. There are significant cohorts in each, that are effing pissed off with their so-called political leaders. But not trying to do the ‘right’ thing or making an effort to correct wrong makes one complicit.

    Negative campaigns seldom work when there is so much to lose. Ideology and youth are usually mutual, but in such a toxic environment – it would seem terribly infantile, if not cretinous to stand aside. A good aphorism is: “If you do not stand for something, you’ll lose everything.”

    These blokes who synthesized the vote ban probably consider themselves ‘public intellectuals’, who have seen it all. Well they ain’t seen nothing yet – ‘cuz the “durian runtuh” might just fall on their shallow, invalid null-skulls. They possess a self delusional political naivety – that they are really important in the general scheme of things.

    Perhaps they’ve corrupted Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Ahimsa’, as a pretense of “Me too smart to fight” or “Me Protest!”.. Or as an adjunct of Apophatic theology without the mysticism. That’s not discernment.

    Here’s my contribution to their cause, ‘yeah right’:

  2. To paraphrase Forest Gimp, Voting is NOT like a box of chocolate, it’s NOT a buffet of choices. In fact, it’s a contest of limited choices with severe consequences.

  3. Register and vote. And vote for change.

    Spoiling your vote or boycotting the GE14 only benefits the
    kleptocratic ruling regime.

  4. These naive public intellectual-wannabees are impetuous , impatient and fail to see the bigger picture. Change is NEVER overnight. It is a process….it goes through cycles….we’re dealing with human beings, after all!!! But the key concept here is exactly that-CHANGE. Start the ball rolling. We must wake up from our 60-year slumber and hapus all that is decaying. BN should be relegated to the wax museum. It has never been done, and we need to do it now. Whatever happens after they’re out of course will be uncertain and choppy. It’s the case in ALL regime changes. But at least civil society will be rejuvinated, empowered, given a sense that the rot that has settled can possibly be weeded out. What is life, after all, without hope and the struggle behind it? #UndiRosak is irresponsible, infantile and arrogant.

  5. Every vote count and UndiRosak is just like giving BN a win by default. UndiRosak does not benefit the opposition nor does it benefit the democratic process in Malaysia. Its tantamount to the Malay saying ‘marah pepejat bakar tilam’

  6. Exercise your right to vote and choose wisely. It is a choice for the survival of Malaysia and all Malaysians. Vote against corruption and Kleptocracy. Vote for the survival of Malaysia and well being of Malaysians.

  7. #undirosak vs #undiracism. Either way.. no difference. Tun M could just tell us #undiHarapan does not equal #undiracism in concrete terms… All these terms about #undirosak could be labelled unpatriotic.

  8. Half a century of racism. Something that meant to be temporary to provide equality. A pogrom thattook place to circumvent a discussion that is supposed to take place 15 years after independence mentioned in Reid Commission never took place. Now Reid Commission is probably not even in national archive. A 92 yo which benefitted directly from all of these who is responsible of this institutional racism wants to be the next generation’s PM. Yet, he does not want to deal with this. This is stupidity? Half a century time is still too much to hope for. UndiRosak is no stupidity nor infantile. For those who have eyes and ears… It is a cry of desperation. Your Tuhan, my God and your conscience is telling you something. And you call it stupidity and infantile. So be it. UndiRosak could rest its’ case. PoliticsRosak, NationBuruk … so be it.

    • Jeffrey, be positive as you are part of DAP and has a last name Lim? UndiRosak would not change election result. So, you can stay relax. Neither would it bring about difference. There is too little difference between the two alliances.
      Both are leading the nation to a point of no return. Malaysians are too complacent to want what is right. They have no one to blame for their miserable state. Thus, the hopelessness for this nation to be known as a nation once called Malaysia.

    • Sorry, I am not aligned with any political party, just a simple Malaysian hoping for change for the sake of our future generation. It is easy to destroy but to build is going to take helluva time and effort.

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