By Muhammad Faiz
GOMBAK, 20 October 2017 – The irrelevance of manifestos and the insignificant roles of the SRC were among the main reasons cited as to why there were poor voter turnouts in the recent student election. Other reasons being time constraints faced by the students to decide on their candidates, and the timing of the election itself which was perceived as inappropriate because the date was close to the semester break and public holiday.
A total of 41.6 per cent polled felt that the election manifestos were irrelevant and 36.1 per cent said they were too busy with class schedules and not willing to sacrifice their time, while 22.6 per cent claimed that the role of the SRC was simply insignificant, and another 15 per cent considered that they were already on holiday, therefore impossible for them to cast their votes.
The SRC had earlier targeted 80 per cent voter turnout for the election through a campaign conducted prior to the polling day, but overall only 58 per cent of the students turned out to cast their votes, a slight increase of two per cent over the votes cast last year at 56 per cent, but still considered a poor show.
The deputy chairperson of the election campaign, Nur Atiqah Ismail, told IIUMToday, “We are definitely disappointed with the percentage of voter turnout since there was only a small increase of two per cent.”
Both Muhammad Khairulikhwan Khairudin and Raudhatul Jannah Mohd Rozli, who were elected for the HS constituency for the SRC 2017/2018 tenure, expressed their frustrations and unhappiness at their constituency receiving the lowest percentage of voter turnout at 40.64 per cent.
Khairul said, “HS students were definitely aware of the elections, yet they consciously decided not to vote. This is really bad, as it reflected the apathetic attitudes of the students.”
“I cannot say for sure why they didn’t vote perhaps it’s their own ideology. However, I strongly felt that we all should vote as it is our responsibility to express our democratic rights in the election process,” he added.
IIUMToday conducted a quick survey regarding the matter and following are the reasons cited for the poor voter turnout:
Reason 1: Manifestos were irrelevant
Some 41.6 per cent of respondents said that the manifestos were irrelevant. Most students wanted their leaders and representatives to fight for the things they needed the most. For example, better facilities in classes, better and cleaner toilets, a smooth process of the add-drop, and the Mahallah registration period. Other than that, students claimed that they were being left out in the manifestos, as such, it was pointless for them to vote.
Reason 2: Time constraints
The second most voted reason was time constraint with 36.1 per cent felt that they were too busy with class schedules. Some students claimed they had classes back-to-back, and some had to attend classes which were conducted at different kulliyyah buildings. The students felt that even though they had ample time to vote, it would be unfair for them to trade off their free time for lunch, performing their prayers and doing assignments, just to vote. Respondents indicated that if they did not have time to eat, how could they have time to vote.
Reason 3: Significance of SRC not seen
There were 22.6 per cent respondents who claimed they did not see the significance of SRC despite the many activities and responsibilities shouldered by SRC in addressing issues faced by the students. Some respondents claimed that the SRC was all talk before the election and nothing changed after that. Respondents felt that they did not see the significance of the SRC as contributing to their welfare, instead, they believed that the Kulliyyah-Based Society (KBS) was much more effective. Some 21 per cent of respondents who agreed that they did not see the significance of SRC also disclosed that they were disinterested in voting.
Reason 4: Time allocated was not suitable
Some 15 per cent of the respondents said that they were already at home for holiday, thus it was impossible for them to vote. The election day was on Thursday (12 October) and it was common knowledge that many students would go back home on Thursday especially when there was no class on Friday. Students chose not to vote as they claimed they had to attend to other important matters like going home for holiday. Going home for holiday was their priority.
Besides that, 13.1 per cent of the respondents did not vote as they felt that star points were not provided. Prior to the election day, there was a viral message for Engineering students that 30-star points would be credited to them if they did vote. Finally, a total of 25 final year students did not vote because they considered that they were already in their final year.
Nur Atiqah, who was also a former SRC member, suggested that the SRC needed to improve the level of political consciousness in IIUM on the rights for students to vote. She believed that the root cause of the low voter turnout was the low level of understanding among students on the philosophy of university education.
She felt it was definitely a long way to go before “we can reach 80 per cent of voters’ turn-out for future elections, but it is not impossible if we were to work very hard, hand in hand, from now on to achieve the goal.”
IIUMToday tried to reach out to the Election Committee for their comment but to no avail.
The survey had drawn a total of 632 respondents consisting of 90.3 per cent Malaysian students and 9.7 per cent, international students. From that percentage, 30.7 per cent were first-year students, 23.4 per cent second-year students, 18.7 per cent third-year students, and 27.2 per cent, final year students. ***