It is to be expected that many Malaysians, particularly the youth, have strongly protested against the Election Commission’s recent announcement that the implementation of the lowering of the voting age to 18 and automatic voter registration would be postponed until 1 September next year.
The disappointment among the youth is heightened by the fact that both the House of Representatives and the Senate had passed the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 respectively on 16 July 2019 and 25 July 2019 to lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. This is an important milestone in Malaysian politics.
The lower voting age, which is supposed to be introduced in July, has been postponed because, according to the Election Commission, work on completing the task has been hampered by the movement control order triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
If implemented as scheduled, the project would mean that some 1.2 million young people aged 18 to 20 would be able to exercise their democratic and constitutional right to vote when the next general election is called.
This voter expansion would also suggest that the electoral outcome may differ in a way that might upset the expectations of some old and seasoned politicians, especially when younger candidates are expected to stand in the next general election. The future of this country may be shaped differently when fresh blood is injected into the body politic.
The frustration and anger of members of the youthful and multi-ethnic Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) over the delay of being registered as a legitimate party by the Registrar of Societies should be seen in this light. Muda is geared to contest in the next general election.
Similarly, the dented expectations and excitement of actively participating in the coming general election reportedly prompted the Persatuan Pengundi Muda (Young Voters Association), also known as Undi18, to take legal action against the government over the delayed registration.
Detractors were not convinced by the Election Commission’s reason. Certain quarters felt that the government was trying to prevent the youth from having a bigger influence in the country’s political landscape. Many called for the registration process to be speeded up.
If the justification offered by the Election Commission was not convincing enough for the youth, the reason given particularly by Pas president Hadi Awang, who is part of the Perikatan Nasional government, could also disappoint, if not anger, the youth and other concerned Malaysians.
In supporting the registration delay, Hadi insisted that voting needs maturity, alluding to 18 as generally the age of innocence and immaturity. In the same breath, though, he rightly said that a person who is older doesn’t necessarily have the required maturity.
We are indeed mindful that the puerile antics and narrow-mindedness of some old politicians in our society are a living testimony to what he said.
Hadi also feared that immature voters may vote into power an immature government. We must not be influenced, he predictably added, by the West in placing 18 as a voting age.
Retorts from social media users to Hadi’s observation is instructive. They pointed out that the lowered voting age shouldn’t be a problem to Pas as a party that condones underage marriage. Surely, they snidely argued, anyone who is allowed to tie the knot at that young age is “mature” enough to vote as well.
One major reason why the youth are raring to go into active politics is because certain old politicians are not able to squarely face the new challenges of the contemporary world. Neither do they appear to fully understand the problems youth face and appreciate their aspirations.
The youth are also tired of the divisive politics of race and religion peddled by the old who lie to themselves that our diverse society does not require the politics of inclusivity.
Also the theatrics of certain old and seasoned politicians in Parliament, which are at times childish, are revolting to the young and others.
The youth are also aware that the maturity acquired by senior politicians can also be punctured by the propensity to be crafty, bigoted and hypocritical, which are certainly detrimental to the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance.
Given that tomorrow is theirs, the younger generation, fired by idealism, ought to be given the opportunity and responsibility to help shape the future of our country. – The Malaysian Insight