RECENTLY, there were many articles and research indicating that young Malaysians may not vote in the general election. One survey, titled “Public Opinion Survey: Youth Perception on the Economy, Leadership, and Current Issues”, concluded that 70 per cent of the 604 respondents were not interested in politics. Also, 71 per cent of those surveyed felt that they had no influence on the government, while 75 per cent felt that politics was complicated.
The 604 respondents were aged from 21 to 30, across all states and parliamentary constituencies in Peninsular Malaysia.
The survey, a joint project between Watan, a youth voter registration non-governmental organisation, and Merdeka Center, was conducted over two days in the first two weeks of August. While the sample may not be huge, the views are as current as any survey can reveal.
It is sad to discover such apathy in young Malaysians. Youth are the future, but there will be no future for them if they do not take steps to shape the government that fits their needs. The 604 respondents surveyed have expressed their concerns about the state of the nation, but sitting idle and letting others make political decisions are not the way forward. If youth want a secure and stable future, they will have to earn it through their votes.
The survey seems to suggest that youth’s responses were motivated by what was happening to them from a financial perspective. It is also likely that they were put off by the lack of rapid-fire changes that the millennials would like to see. But, one needs to appreciate the monolith a country is. It is a macrocosm of structure, systems, processes and people. Changes will not just happen; it must be caused to happen. And, the cause is through the voting system. Rome was not built in a day. Youth need to realise that the nature of changes that will be implemented will be collectively determined by the parliamentarians and state assemblymen we vote for. We get the changes we deserve. To be deserving, youth need to exercise their voting rights.
Democracy doesn’t work without citizens’ participation. Voting demonstrates one’s attempt to get the political outcome one desires. And, should the political outcome be not in line with what one desires, there is always the opportunity to raise it in Parliament or state assembly through elected representatives.
Youth must understand that democracy is a confluence where one’s “give” meets one’s “take”. Compromises are the wages for peace and stability. Compromises should neither breed apathy nor disinterest.
Election is a numbers game, too. If youth do not turn up in large numbers to cast the votes, the election will be decided in the favour of those who do. The vote is everyone’s privilege. Do not waste your privilege just because you do not believe it counts. Vote for who you think will strive for the future you want.
Staying away from voting is like surrendering your right to another, and, that other may not have your interest at heart.
Make the ballot count in your favour. Cast your vote at the polling station. Not voting is akin to delaying five years of your future. And, most certainly, that will retard your future. Every election is determined by the people who show up.
Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin is the Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture