On the “Right to Reject”

The recent Supreme Court order granting voters the right to record a “none-of-the-above” (NOTA) option in the voting machine itself, i.e., to reject all candidates in the fray and make the voter’s rejection counted, is a small step in the right direction. That a NOTA vote should enjoy the same sanctity as a vote in favour of a particular candidate has indeed been a long-standing democratic demand.

It is clear that even with a substantial number of such votes there will still be winners in our first-past-the-post system. But if in any given constituency NOTA votes exceed the number of votes secured by the winning candidate, should not a repoll be ordered? And should not voters also have the option of recalling non-performing legislators who betray the trust of the electors? Indeed, the right to reject must go together with the right to recall.

Such issues – and there are many of them – should be widely discussed and debated within Parliament and without. On that basis we must move forward with a comprehensive electoral reform that puts in place a system of proportional representation, debars parties from luring voters with freebies and false promises, ensures genuinely fair elections that are free from the macabre dance of money and muscle power and communal machinations and guarantees transparency in the funding of political parties. Only as part of such thoroughgoing reform can the recently announced partial correctives become truly meaningful.

Liberation Archive