The problem with the #UndiRosak movement - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Friday, January 26, 2018
Malaysiakini : “‘But if you don't vote, you don't get
to complain ah!’ I hear this snarky comment every other day. This
comment has never gotten to me because it's just ridiculous.” – Maryam Lee
COMMENT | Well, as someone who wrote an article titled, ‘If you do not vote, do not complain’,
I really think that my proposition is not ridiculous. While young
people below the age of 21, of course, have a right to complain, their
complaints only mean anything in a democracy when they vote. When they turn their complaints into action by ticking a box every
few years, it demonstrates that not only are they affirming the
democratic process but also their complaints are not the whining of
immature adults but rather issues that they believe affect the
communities they are a part of. Spoiling your vote is the equivalent of a
Furthermore, if vote spoiling is “statistically insignificant”, then
why bother advocating it? I mean, are you seriously telling people that
ultimately the act of vote spoiling is meaningless, but do it anyway? I get it when people say that there is no difference between Umno/BN
and Pakatan Harapan – it is something that I have said a few times – but
what exactly is gained by telling people to spoil their votes even
though you know that whoever follows your advice would not influence the
election in any significant way?
Surely, there are better ways to start a conversation about how
Harapan should start getting their act together. I attempt to do this
nearly every week and frankly, it gets somewhat lonely. If more people think that Harapan needs ‘reformasi’, they should voice their
concerns in the echo chambers, then the discourse would not be about how
terrible Umno is but more of how Harapan should stand for something
instead of becoming Umno/BN-lite.
I would understand if by spoiling your vote or not voting, this would
hurt both coalitions, but the reality is that this whole movement is
about giving the finger to Harapan, which - intentionally or not - gives
Umno an easier time to achieve victory, again.
As someone who routinely gives the finger to Harapan, I still see no
reason for Umno to gain more influence or maintain more influence merely
because the opposition, well, sucks. If Umno is going to win this
election, I want them to fight every inch of the way to Putrajaya
because maybe if they have to do this, they would understand that people
are not going to give them or their policies a free ride, not merely
because the opposition sucks.
If the current Umno grand poohbah with all the systemic electoral
malfeasance manages to overcome Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Harapan, Umno
would feel invincible and believe they have a mandate to carry out
whatever they perceive benefits themselves. If they do manage to win
more easily because people spoil their votes or not vote at all, this
would embolden them further because they realise that Malaysians would
rather they remain in power then vote for a flawed opposition.
I mean, the Umno hegemon does not give a damn about the progressive
ideas people who want to spoil their votes or are considering spoiling
their votes have. The Umno base certainly does not care about these
progressive ideas. The only coalition pushing for any sort of
progressive ideas is the opposition. I get that by aligning with
Mahathir and his race-based party, the former prime minister’s baggage
becomes Harapan’s baggage. This does not sit well with some people. Many opposition-leaning people are seriously thinking about sitting
out on this election. Add to this the #UndiRosak movement and what we
have is the perfect storm of a Trump of our making.
Devoid of bargaining chips
If you really believe the opposition needs to be taught a lesson and
that there are values and principles that should not be compromised on,
there are better ways of getting the attention of the opposition than by
spoiling your vote or not voting.
Not voting is not going to hurt the opposition, what it is going to
do is hurt progressive movements in this country and their supporters
who are voting for the compromised opposition hoping that a change in
government, even though a superficial one, is the first step to bigger
changes.Is this movement an urban thing? If it is, imagine if more people
decided that not supporting the opposition in urban areas is a good
thing. Urban areas are the few lines of defence against the Umno
Think about it, as long as the opposition has control of urban areas,
the hegemon would be denied access to cash cows but more importantly, a
semblance of racial and religious moderation would exist in terms of
policy in this country where people are losing the war against the
religious extremists. Even in urban areas, there are movements to
ghettoise the Malay population and discourage ideas that would make it
easier for religious extremism to tighten its grips on the urban Malay
community. If the opposition were denied votes in the urban areas, there would
be no point in engaging in other ways in the democratic process because
the Umno hegemon would understand that the oppositional forces in this
country have no bargaining chips whatsoever. This is what any publicly
supported opposition to the hegemon is. Bargaining chips.
Plenty at stake with rural votes
Let us talk about the rural areas. Imagine if you are a rural voter.
You are told by Umno and the state-sanctioned religion that the
opposition is under control by the Chinese community via DAP. That the
92-year-old man leading the opposition is a traitor to the Malay race
because he has rejected Umno for whatever reasons. You are warned that
voting for the opposition places your race in servitude. You are not the
most informed of the electorate because that is the way the system is
With all this pressure, you vote for the opposition anyway, and
discover - if the opposition wins – that your world does not end. You
discover that the Chinese are not going to enslave you on your own land
and that your race and your religion are not in danger.
Now imagine if by discovering your world would not end – it may not
improve either – you come to the realisation that you do not really need
Umno or the opposition for that matter. You discover that the Chinese
community was not the bogeyman that mainstream Malay politics makes them
out to be. You discover that what race-based parties tell you or your
religion tells you do not define your aspirations as an individual.
Are people really saying that this first step, no matter how
faltering, is not worth encouraging in rural polities and that people
should spoil their vote or not vote?