A SPOIL-YOUR-VOTE campaign is underway in the Chinese social media circles, which analysts say could spell doom for the Pakatan Harapan coalition which needs a higher voter turnout to win the 14th general election.
Analysts said the movement reflects a broader trend of political fatigue and discontent with Malaysian politicians on both sides of the divide as bickering between them intensify ahead of GE14 next year.
Political analyst C.C. Liew said 10% to 15% of the Chinese electorate are likely to spoil their votes.
Since PH parties are banking on getting roughly 80% support from the Chinese-Malaysian community in GE14, the spoil-your-vote campaign could hurt their chances in many parliamentary and state seats.
Although the number of followers and likes on these Facebook pages are still small, political analyst Dr Poon Wing Keong said their influence could spread to other sections of the Chinese-speaking community.
These include voters who supported the opposition in the last general election but who are likely not to vote in the upcoming polls, said Phua.
“In reality, not many will choose to cast spoilt votes. But this campaign could reduce the turnout rate,” said Poon, adding that a lower turnout rate will affect PH’s chances.
Another observer Steve Chew cautions against taking the spoilt-vote campaign at face value, claiming that the campaigns could be run by operatives of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).
“Is this spoilt-vote gang genuinely disappointed in PH or BN or is it just trying to convince PH supporters to spoil their votes?”
“Who gains in a spoilt-vote scenario?” said Chew, a lawyer and critic of the campaigns.
‘Teach them a lesson’
The most popular of the three Facebook pages promoting spoilt votes is Double X Action or “Ma ‘X’ Hang Dong” in Cantonese, which has 599 followers and 587 likes as of this morning.
A post on Double X Action lists three reasons to support its campaign:
1. Spoilt votes can represent disagreement with both the government and opposition.
2. Spoilt votes will teach irresponsible politicians a lesson.
3. Spoiled votes are a form of check and balance for parties sending out candidates voters don’t recognise.
Some its most eye-catching memes attempt to convey the message that both BN and PH leaders are untrustworthy.
One graphic depicts DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng criticising BN component party MCA for not speaking out when BN chairman and Prime Minister Najib Razak makes overrtures to work with PAS.
But when it comes to his ally PKR, who has ties with PAS, the DAP strongman shrugs it off as a “PKR matter”, the meme shows.
Another meme has a picture of PH chairman and former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whom DAP once labelled dictator, with the words: ‘Does the DAP know what he used to do?’
The other two pages are @castinvalidballots, or “tou fei piao lian meng” in Mandarin, which has 491 followers 480 likes, who last posted last month.
Another Facebook page, “Zhe me li hai ni lai zuo” has 350 followers, 342 likes. Loosely translated, the name means “if you’re so great, you be the minister”. Its last post was in October.
An FB user by the name of Wong, whose posts are shared on the three pages, defended the spoilt-vote campaign as a positive phenomenon.
“In the long term, spoilt votes are a good development because Malaysian politics has strayed from its democratic principles,” the writer of the posts, Ian Anderson Wong told The Malaysian Insight.
Both the government and the opposition were using the electoral system to get elected but once ensconced in power, they ignored the wishes of their voters, he said.
“They don’t go to parliament and they become lazy and only want glamour. So the spoitl-vote campaign can force the candidates and their parties to listen to the people,” Wong said.
“If the political parties do not respect what the people want, the people can choose to cast spoilt votes.”
Better of two rotten apples
Liew said those behind the spoil-vote campaign are usually middle class, independent voters who never have spoken out on politics before.
They are disenchanted with the infighting which has intensified between the government and the opposition after the 13th general election, said Liew.
“They are left leaning and make up 10 to 15% of Chinese voters. The reason they spoil their votes is because their voices are not heard. They will damage PH more than BN.”
There are about two million new voters who have not decided which way to vote in GE14 and a spoilt-vote campaign or a low turnout will affect PH’s performance, said Liew.
He said PH parties Amanah and Bersatu will have to work extra hard to get more Malay votes in order to make up for the number of Chinese votes that could be potentially lost through abstention and spoilt votes.
Lawyer Chew, who has been critical of the campaigns, argued that each spoiled vote is inadvertently a vote for BN.
“Every political party must now work harder to gain public support. Between two rotten apples we have to choose the better one as there is no such thing as a perfect politician,” Chew told The Malaysian Insight.
“It is an illusion to believe that whoever we elect can turn into a saint. No one is 100% perfect in this world, including the YBs (elected representatives) we elect.”
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT