Political cynicism drives youth away from ballot box
That the situation has reached an alarming stage is acknowledged by the Elections Commission which recently said the figure of those in the category as reaching five million.
A quick survey of young adults shows that they appear to be in the dark when it comes to exercising their democratic rights as voters while others think they have better things to do.
However, there are the exceptions who are knowledgeable enough to be enthusiastic about the whole electoral process.
A broadcast monitor, Siti Rahimah Salleh, 28, is of the opinion that voting is just a waste of time because politicians are generally ‘good’ at projecting a false image.
“They will come up with all kinds of promises during campaigns but eventually nothing will be done, be it BN, PKR, DAP or PAS,” she said.
Even if she was a registered voter, she is so turned off by politicians, Siti Rahimah said she would not vote in the next polls as there is no relying on them.
Copywriter Aruna Pakirisamy, 25, on the other hand was positive about voting. All should register, she said, adding that there is no point in sitting around groaning and moaning about all the injustice happenings in the country.
“If we are not happy with the government than we should show it during the general election. It’s our right,” she said.
Citing the March 2008 general elections, Aruna said it was one major indication that many Malaysians are not happy with the government.
She added that it could be the beginning of something drastic and fruitful in Malaysia’s political landscape.
“We must believe that every single vote and voice make a difference,” she said.
Vinod Gangatharan, 29, a team leader in a media organisation, said the three things that cause youngsters not to register as voters are apathy, sense of helplessness and ignorance.
He said that youngsters nowadays do not feel any social obligation and do not understand what democracy is all about.
“Imagine my frustration when I advised my cousin to register as a voter, and he sarcastically replied that he is a Cambodian. That is apathy of the worst kind,” he added.
“Another thing which is holding youngsters from registering is the sense of helplessness. The feeling of one vote does not make any difference and the fact that phantom voters can easily ‘swallow up’ their votes,” he added.
‘Make politics fun’
Vinod also remarked that there are also those who are ignorant about the whole idea of voting as they do not possess basic information on when and how to go about it.
Awakening the youngsters
MIC information chief P Kamalanathan agreed that the lack of voter registration among youth is indeed a worrying trend.
As they are not keen on being involved in politics, they are not bothered about registering themselves.
He said it is very important to rid such sentiments from the youth.
“Another school of thought is that they feel that even if they register, nothing can change. This is a wrong perception and the 12th general election was a good example,” he added
Kamalanathan, who is also the coordinator of Putera MIC, said that every vote is important.
“While the younger generation are strong advocates of human rights in many aspects, they forget that one of the most important principles in human rights is to be a voter and make the change you want,” he added.
On how to bring about awareness of their civil responsibilities and obligations among the youth, Kamalanathan said political parties should find ways to make politics fun and interesting so that youngsters would consider themselves as part of the system.
The MIC, on its part recognises the importance of educating the young and is working towards getting as many Indians as possible registered as voters.
He said it is also important to educate youngsters on the importance of voting, adding that MIC has already working towards creating such awareness.
According to Kamalanathan, as of Dec 1 last year, registered Indian voters numbered 816,068.
Chuah Ee Chia, a member of SABM (Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia) core group, recommended regular awareness campaigns in both mainstream and alternative media and having famous and high-profile personalities, such as sportswoman Nicol David and singer Zee Avi, would impact hugely in encouraging youngsters to register as voters.
On the response of voter registration campaigns previously conducted by the organisation, she said the response was mixed as some were receptive, while others proved to be apathetic.
“We (SABM) personally think that auto-registration should be implemented as it would allow all eligible Malaysians to vote automatically,” she added.
Chuah also reminded youngsters to look out for voter registration drives and voter education campaigns set for the middle of this year.
However, Umno Youth secretary Megat Firdaus Megat Junid said the country is not ready for that move as there are certain aspects that should be looked into before its implementation.
“I believe one should be well aware of his or her own responsibilities and be ready to practice the right to register as voters, if not there is no point in registering in the first place,” he added.
MIC Youth assistant secretary Premnath Agamutu also agreed that auto-registration may face some technical hitches such as pin-pointing which constituency the person is actually casting the vote.
“The Election Commission is an independent body. They (EC) should know what is suitable for our country and I am sure they will implement auto-registration if it is easier to manage,” he told Malaysiakini.
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