By Mahadhir Monihuldin
“Every election is determined by the people who show up.” Every election. Every single election, big or small. All of it is determined by the people who show up. These words from political scientist, Larry J. Sabato rings true like a bell, and it rings louder than ever now that the IIUM Student Election has just concluded.
However, during the span of the voting period, while we were able to see our candidates, our representatives, our winners, all in the flesh, unfortunately, one thing that we weren’t able to see very much was: Our students.
According to statistics given by the Election Commission of IIUM, the voter turn-out rate for our most recent election saw a decrease of about 10% of voters compared to the election that came before, and only a percentage of 56.2% out of an overall 10,000 Malaysian and international students casted their votes.
For those who believe that voting is crucial for the well-being of the people involved, this is a worrying sign. But why? Why was there a decrease in voters for the election that has just gone by?
To answer this question, I went straight to the students themselves and listened to what they had to say about it.
Problem of time and scheduling
Among the many Malaysian and international students that I had the opportunity of interviewing, a large number of them pointed to the problem of timing and scheduling as one of the reasons why a large number of them didn’t turn out.
Regarding this, Farah Sakina, a second year Engineering student said she tried spreading the words about the election to get students to vote, but she added that, “Students were too busy with their classes so they didn’t have time, what more with the long queue that they have to wait for before voting.”
Another student from the Kulliyah of Architecture, Nur Fatihah, mentioned that, “students were afraid they would miss their classes and suffer the consequences if they were to wait in line to vote.”
Impact of Students’ Representative Council (SRC) not made known enough to students
Aside from the previous reason, it would seem that students were less inclined to vote because they felt like the impact of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) hasn’t really been made known enough to them, and thus, they feel like voting wouldn’t make any difference at all.
An international student who is no stranger to Malaysia, Moustafa Koutoub Sano, hailing from New Guinea said, “The effects that the SRC has brought to the students aren’t being publicised well enough.”
He continued, “Our students are voting only from a sense of belief. Not from the impact that they’ve seen with their very own eyes mind you, but only from their belief alone.”
Shortcomings of Election Campaigns
Some students directed their attention to the election campaigns and how there was much room for improvement. Nur Shafika Abdul Rashid, currently in her third year of studies, shared: “The duration of the campaigns were quite short. Some students, especially the new ones, didn’t get to know much about the candidates.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Islamic Revealed Knowledge student, Zihan, who said, “The manifestos presented by the candidates have been very similar from year to year. Not many profound changes have been proposed.”
So, now that we’ve heard what the students had to say about the question of why many of them didn’t cast their votes, let’s hear what they think should be done in order to bring more of them forward.
Solution 1: Better communication from the SRC
Moustafa Koutoub Sano believes that action speaks louder than words. It is essential for the SRC to communicate what the students want and need, but most of all, for whenever those wants and needs are met by the SRC, the results must be shown to the students.
Koutoub shares, “I remember reading from IIUM Online about this international student who was apprehended by the police because he forgot to bring his documents with him. Fortunately, the SRC members went to the police station and managed to get him out. That’s one great example right there of what needs to be done.”
Shafika Abdul Rashid brings forth another example, of how the SRC has been planning to make a walk-way for the female students to travel from their mahallah to the campus safely. A truly great idea that needs to be promoted more openly to the students.
Solution 2: Helping hand from lecturers and staff members of IIUM
Furthermore, students also feel that the role and importance of the SRC should be presented to them in a manner that’s clearer and more defined. To help in this endeavour, Zihan thinks that the educators of IIUM could lend a helping hand.
“During class, lecturers could bring awareness to the students about the SRC or the election, that is, to educate them how significant of a role they play to the daily life of students,” she said.
Solution 3: Reaching out to the international students
Bringing awareness about the SRC as well as the student election becomes all the more vital when it pertains to the international students in IIUM.
For Cai Xin Yue, better known as Asma, a second year Human Science student of IIUM all the way from China, a big issue that has caused much distress to the Chinese students and the students from other countries is one revolving around the acquisition and renewal of student visas.
She laments saying that, “We have 400 Chinese students in IIUM. I repeat. 400 Chinese students and many other international students who are all struggling with the student visas. You have no idea how hard it is for them. It is really a very serious problem.”
It is her hope that foreign students can rely more on the SRC for help, and for the SRC to try their best to make the student visa process less gruelling for the students.
Thus, there you have it. The students have spoken.
It is important to note that while we’ve heard the opinions of the students, and the students alone regarding the matter of the Student Election, it is truly upon us all to create progress – the students themselves, the SRC, the administration, and each and everyone else.
But above it all, what would truly ignite this path towards progress is when all of us heed each other’s calls, unite as one, and take a step forward together. When this happens, progress doesn’t become doubtful, it becomes inevitable. ***