KUALA LUMPUR: The constitutional amendment to lower the minimum voting age to 18 will transform Malaysia into a progressive nation as it will compel the government to formulate policies that resonate with the youth to remain relevant.
Institute for Policy Research chairman Datuk Khalid Jaafar said the ruling Pakatan Harapan government, which had proven that it acted in the best interest of the nation, would intensify efforts to win the support of the three million new voters.
To win youth support, Khalid said, the PH administration must understand the aspirations of the group, who wanted more respectable jobs.
“For the government to remain relevant to the people, especially the youth, it needs to understand the main problem affecting the group, which is employment.
“Hence, the government needs to look into its economic policies to create not only ample jobs, but also jobs with respectable pay to complement the skills and capabilities of our youth,” he told the New Straits Times.
The Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday passed the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.
To create enough jobs, Khalid said, the government must attract more investments from foreign and multinational companies.
He said to do so, the government needed to ensure there was a skilled workforce, which could be achieved by reforming the education system and enhancing technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes.
“There is a mismatch between the education system and the job market. This can be addressed by reforming education policies, especially those involving TVET.
“If we want quality and good investments, we need to have a skilled labour force.
“Such efforts should not only be shouldered by the Education Ministry, but also state governments, especially in Selangor and Penang.”
Universiti Malaya political analyst Associate Professor Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the constitutional amendment would result in the government looking for ways to fulfil the aspirations of youth by formulating and implementing policies to improve their livelihood.
“The political landscape will become more dynamic as parties from both sides of the divide will
compete against each other to garner support from the youth.”
Professor Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani of Universiti Utara Malaysia said creating awareness of democratic practices and the political situation in the country was a delicate process.
“Perhaps Malaysia can learn from countries such as Australia on how to educate the youth about the functions of the government and the importance of voting.”
He said automatic voter registration for those who reached 18 would result in an increase in Malay voters in urban parliamentary constituencies.
Khalid, Awang Azman and Azizuddin disagreed with views that the constitutional amendment was political suicide for the administration due to assumptions that youths were anti-establishment.
Khalid said: “This is not true. The youths were unhappy with the previous government as there were many issues that affected their welfare.
“The PH administration should treat this development as a challenge to build a more progressive nation.”
Awang Azman said youth being anti-establishment was just a perception, which could change in the next few years.
“If the government can come up with the right policies, it will
help them win the hearts of the youth.”
Azizuddin said although youths were often labelled rebellious, he believed this could be addressed if the ruling coalition performed its duties and responsibilities accordingly.