Youth vote will be determining factor in GE15
By Zan Azlee
So I’ve made it my mission to try and convince as many of those between the ages of 18 and 21 to go out and vote this coming general election.
I have access. So it shouldn’t be too difficult. I teach at several universities and, being a journalism and media lecturer, politics fits nicely in the course syllabus.
But, to make it clear, I don’t campaign for any particular party. I just tell them the importance of voting and democracy.
I mean, journalism is the fourth estate when it comes to democracy, right? Repeat after me – it’s the executive, legislative, judiciary, and media. Clever students!
Of course, I constantly stress that they, being the youth, have more at stake when it comes to how the country progresses in the future as compared to the older generation.
They just have so many more years of being around while the older folks don’t. So they need to make sure they decide who runs the country.
But discussing with them about politics and the things they want for the country really puts a lot of things into a better perspective of how it is today.
When I was their age, which is about a quarter of a century ago, some of the things that we felt passionate about were racial and religious issues.
We were tired of how the BN government at the time was constantly harping about voting for them in order to avoid another incident like May 13, 1969 from happening again.
My generation felt that, although it is something we shouldn’t forget, it is also something not relatable to us and we were confident it wouldn’t happen again on our watch.
To be honest, there were also a lot of us who were just uninterested and apathetic when it came to the country’s politics and development. It was just something that wasn’t a concern. It was very much a time when the youth were not as engaged politically and socially.
This is in general. There were, of course, many youths at that time who were quite engaged. Many are now already playing more important roles as seasoned politicians, activists, and commentators.
Youth concerns today
Listening to the youth today, as much as race issues are still something of a concern, they have more operational issues on their minds.
Many are concerned with access to tertiary education. They worry about the disparity between those who are able to go to government universities and those forced to go to private ones.
They want education to be more affordable, and free if possible, and the quality needs to be at par with international standards.
They want better job opportunities and better pay. They don’t want to be living in an economic or financial depression. They want opportunities to pursue careers and professions that they are interested in.
So I listen to them and talk to them about these issues. I advise them to listen to different candidates and political parties now as they start to campaign. Which ones will present a manifesto that fits what they want for the country? Voice out to those campaigning for what they want. Then make a decision and vote.
As usual, there will be a handful who say they don’t want to vote because politics is boring and for losers. These are the too-cool-for-school clique (although there aren’t as many today as there was a quarter of a century ago!). But it isn’t difficult to convince them to change their minds.
All I say to them is that if they don’t vote then, they have no right to complain about anything. They can be quite smart alecs and say that they never complain anyway.
I’m quick to remind them that they were the ones who were so vocally angry about the fact that the movies Thor: Love and Thunder and Lightyear were banned in Malaysia.
Who do they think made the decision to ban these films? It was the government. If they feel this isn’t something they like happening, then they have to make sure they vote for a government they think will make the right decisions for them.
It’s a simple explanation, but quite effective in convincing them.
As much as we feel that it’s not the right time to hold a general election, it is still quite an exciting time. I love that after discussions that I have with my students, they all start logging on to the Election Commission’s website to check where their polling centres are. I get excited because they get excited.
Remember, thanks to Undi18, there will be 4.8 million new, young voters who will be eligible to determine who forms the government after this coming general election. That’s a huge number and we know that when the youth are excited, there’s nothing that can stop them.
[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]
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