Many a democracy around the world gives voters the option to reject all candidates in case they do not want to vote for any of them. Indonesia and India are among the countries that give this ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option to their citizens during elections.
In 2013, while hearing a petition, the Supreme Court of India declared that while casting vote is a democratic duty, rejecting any candidate is also a democratic right of the people. Therefore, in India, either on the ballot paper or through electronic voting machines, people have the NOTA option at their disposal. This in India is a success because people often use the said option more than in favour of any candidate.
Interestingly, in Indonesia, candidates have to compete against the NOTA option even if they happen to be the lone contender in a constituency. This law in Indonesia was passed in 2016, and in 2018, during the election for a mayoral seat in Makassar city, the NOTA option got more votes than the lone ‘rival’. It was apparent that the public was not satisfied with that candidate, and, therefore, rejected him.
We must introduce the NOTA option in Pakistan which will give people a better way to express themselves, for they are currently forced to vote for one candidate or the other even when they do not wish to vote for any of them.
They have to pick the ‘least desirable’ candidate, or, else, that their voting right might as well be used by somebody else. With NOTA as an option, we will have a fair idea of the popularity and sincerity of a candidate.
In doing so, as people will have an opportunity to be a part of elections while having power and authority to reject all the candidates, giving the message that no one is popular, honest and sincere enough to merit a vote.
This way, we will get a clear picture of where a candidate or political leader stands. This will also help us get rid of unscrupulous elements in national politics.
We have frequently observed candidates winning by a margin of a few hundred votes even in their hometowns where thousands of people were registered as voters. This will no more be the case.
Besides, the NOTA option will improve the voter turnout significantly as all elections in the country regard-less of the tier will become genuine platforms for precise expression of public sentiment. Keeping all these elements in mind, the NOTA option is really the need of the hour in Pakistan.
G AKBAR PALIJO