Vote 18: Of maturity and rights of youth to participate in politics

By Nur Sa’adah Batrisyia 

GOMBAK; 14 March 2021: Age should not be a yardstick to determine youth maturity in politicking as there are other influencing indicators such as education, environment and active involvement in society, according to a panelist in a live forum held yesterday. 

Muhammad Wafiyyudin Musa, an IIUM student and a panelist representing the Association of Peninsular Malay Students or Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS), was responding to a statement on the 18-year old voter age as being not matured enough compared to 21 to participate in politics.  

The forum was organised by IIUM Insights, IIUM GPMS, and UMNO (United Malays National Organisation) Gombak Student Club to discuss various perspectives on youth voting such as its legitimacy, key factors to the change of voter age limit, and its long-term impact on Malaysia’s politics, socio-economy and education.

Wafiyyudin further said: “If youth were given the chance to vote, they will become good voters owing to the fact that they are more passionate and eager compared to older voters.”

“We have seen a good example in the election of Maryland, United States in 2013 where high voter turnout was clearly apparent among young voters aged 18 years old,” he continued. 

While political literacy among youth is a significant factor in today’s online discourse, it is linked to educational aspects. 

“To induce political literacy, the government should amend or revise the syllabus or if needed, introduce a new subject to better understand Malaysian politics. They can also hold a politically-related programme for students,” Muhammad Hafizan Shafuan, a panelist from UMNO Gombak Student Club expressed. 

He commented that the existing syllabus only focuses on historical aspects such as the establishment of UMNO and the National Front (or Barisan Nasional). 

In socio-economic context, Durra Nur Nazeera from Johor Youth Council (DMJ) believed the youth voice will bring good changes to Malaysia’s economy and its policies. 

“The presence of youth ministers in the cabinet functioned to bring youth’s voice and drive them to improve Malaysia’s economy,” she remarked. 

She also believed veteran politicians should be role models to the youth by providing them with relatable knowledge in economics and policy-making. 

She continued that in every decision to determine a country’s policy, the politicians should take into consideration the economy especially during this COVID-19 era. 

This forum was conducted live on IIUM Insights Facebook from 8.30 p.m to 10 p.m yesterday and attracted 200 participants.

Late last year, the Senate granted its approval to implement a new voting age limit and it is expected to start this July. Under this new policy, automatic voter registration will be executed.*** 

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