Postponement of #Undi18: When a government fears the restless young

By Julien Tan


WHICHEVER way one looks at it, the decision to postpone the deadline for the automatic voter registration for 18-year-old Malaysians, is an indictment of the Government’s fear of losing its grip come the next polls.

Despite having earlier promised to push through the electoral reform by July this year, the Election Commission has announced that the plan will only come to fruition in September 2022.

By most estimates, the general election would have been long done and dusted, considering Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s pledge to call for the polls after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. Some are even speculating that Parliament will be dissolved in August when the Emergency is scheduled to end.

The EC’s decision has robbed the rights of about 3.8 million youth between the ages of 18 and 20, of their democratic rights in the upcoming general election. Given how fluid politics in the country currently is since Perikatan Nasional seized power in February 2020, this segment could well decide the outcome of the next polls.

It is not a stretch to say that this segment is one of the most disenfranchised groups in the country right now, partly due to the shocks the pandemic has brought about. Those still studying are still seething with anger over the lack of clarity by the Government on dealing with the pandemic, such as the flip-flops on face-to-face learning in colleges and universities.

Those fresh from leaving schools or higher education, find jobs elusive owing to their lack of working experience. The lucky ones end up in jobs that do not match their qualifications or temperament, such as food delivery riders.

Media reports cite the youth unemployment at 13.2%, roughly 2.4 times higher than the national unemployment rate. This doesn’t take into account underemployment among this group.

There’s bubbling discontent among today’s young, who unlike their forefathers, are not just more highly educated, but also more exposed to their surroundings, thanks to the Internet. But in one fell swoop, the EC has denied these people the right to have a say on who they want to lead this country.

So far, the EC’s decision has been met with widespread outrage. Even Cabinet Ministers Khairy Jamaluddin and Datuk Seri Reezal Merican want the EC to explain why it backtracked on such an important decision.

The Government now needs to direct the EC to push through the reform in time for the next general election, as promised earlier. The Government cannot be seen to be riding roughshod over its machinery and apparatus for the sake of political expediency.

Failure to reverse the EC’s decision will only cost the ruling coalition more votes from those above 18 years. – March 29, 2021


Julian Tan is a FocusM contributor

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Photo credit: FMT

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