SEREMBAN – The 15th General Election is scheduled to be held in 2023, and by that time, the 15-year-olds of today will be eligible to vote.
The question which has been playing out in our minds of the people after the Dewan Rakyat passed the amendment to the Federal Constitution to reduce the voting age limit to 18, is whether the group will be able to make an informed choice.
Also of concern are the measures required to properly educate them about national issues, as they are more inclined to gather information and opinions via social media.
Not only would they need to be aware of the country’s political scene, but also matters of governance, integrity and transparency, so that they can become quality voters who truly understand the concept of nationality and the democratic process.
Nurul Izzah Zolkifli, 18, who finished her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination last year, admitted that although she lacked knowledge of the country’s policies and core issues, she usually gained some exposure on what was happening in the country through the Twitter app.
“I always look at political issues, but only read the headlines. If you ask me how I will make my choice when voting, I’d prefer to choose the individual. If the candidate can really implement what is promised in the manifesto well, I’ll vote for the candidate. The candidate’s personal issues will not influence my choice, ” she told Bernama here.
Restaurant assistant, Norafazreen Kamarul Zaman, 18, who also gets her dose of political news via Twitter, acknowledged that she prefers to look at the information on Twitter, based on topics that interest her.
“If the (political) issue is really interesting, I will read the whole story. In terms of voting, I would prefer a candidate who in my opinion, is qualified, credible and has good leadership qualities,” she said, adding that nationalism and the process of democracy should be taught in schools and it must be neutral, without leaning towards any political party.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Academic Association Congress president Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Idrus Mohd Masirin said lowering the voting age would give youths a chance to prove their maturity and ability in evaluating candidates and parties.
“However, follow-up measures need to be implemented by the government in the country’s education system so that the opportunity offered to the youth is not misused by irresponsible parties.
“Among the efforts that can be made is to provide early exposure at the school-level on politics, and the history of the country and the world,” he said.
In KUANTAN, Pahang State Youth Council president Wan Emril Nizam Wan Embong said he hoped that the Ministry of Education would provide appropriate mechanisms for students to be exposed to the democratic and political processes.
“This is because they will be involved in the process of choosing the (country’s) leadership and it will be their responsibility to determine the country’s future path,” he said when contacted here.
Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs assistant secretary Zafril Nasir said exposure to the democratic and political processes in schools was important to prevent students from getting inaccurate information.
“At that age, they usually prefer to look for information on the Internet. I’m not saying the information on the Internet is incorrect, but there needs to be a more ‘official’ channel for them to get information on the voting process,” he said.