🇲🇾 'It will be my generation that will face the consequences'
On voting for the first time in Malaysia
I am so happy to bring you this piece today from Rifqi Faisal. At 20, he will vote for the first time next Saturday after an enormous civil society campaign, led by the Undi18 (Vote 18) group, won the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18.
“For the first time, the youth are the biggest electoral bloc,” Undi18 co-founder Tharma Pillai told the Guardian. What this will look like is the most fascinating unknown of the entire election. In the same piece, political expert and commentator James Chin suggests that a very high turnout of this cohort would have the power to change government alone.
The youngest voters next week would have been 14 when the government changed hands for the first time ever in 2018 and then grew up in exceptionally trying circumstances — a pandemic disrupting education, a global economic nightmare affecting home life and future prospects plus an unbelievably complicated and bizarre political crisis. And then you’ve got climate change, and they’re all digital natives!
These are new Malaysian voters raised in a new Malaysia and I am very excited to see what they come up with. Rifqi explains all for us today.
See you next week,
‘I Believe in the Rakyat’ — Rifqi Faisal
Back in 2021, I alongside 17 other youths sued the Federal Government of Malaysia for the delay of the UNDI18 bill. Fast forward a year later and we are presented with the fruits of our labour. To me, this experience feels a little surreal. It fills me with pride and determination to see the good that Malaysia can be. Despite all that, there is a strangeness lingering in the air; the oddities of voting in a political climate that is so polarized and hectic.
However, it seems like youth voters are no longer strangers to our political climate given we’ve lived a significant part of our lives under the governance of the current ruling party and its members. So it’s not surprising to see a rise in online discussions and A LOT of confusion from youths voters regarding the voting process as well as the candidates they are presented with to vote in their respective constituency given certain flexibility in stances as well as general uncertainty.
It is during this time, I begin to hear from my friends their excitement over voting for the first time and for others; confusion and disappointment with the choices they are presented with. Many of my friends spoke about their choices and how they feel as though they can’t relate to these candidates.
This is what I believe many youths would feel — the inability to relate or connect with the candidates.
As a youth voter, my concerns are mostly long-term concerns. These concerns relate mostly to the state of the economy and policies we’d put in place to ensure sustainability. Not just in expenses and job security, but further policies that enable young underprivileged individuals from all social stratas to thrive better than they have been. My concerns relate to environmental protection policies and initiatives, and the role Malaysia would play in the global setting. My concerns relate further with social and health policies for marginalized groups such as child brides, unrestricted access to healthcare despite sexuality, and so much more.
These things matter to me because in the absence of good and sustainable policies for all of the issues that we face collectively, it will be my generation that will face the consequences of inaction and identity politics. However, I’m not certain these issues are of priority to the people I’m supposed to vote for.
Many youth voters have expressed that given the choices they have, ultimately it seems we’re better off not voting. I think otherwise. Personally, I do not believe electoral processes and politics are enough to incite change. Perhaps, I’d even suggest that time has proven that it has very little impact.
Furthermore, even if we look at (somewhat) youth-driven parties such as MUDA; I still personally cannot find my ideals and beliefs being represented. This is nothing new. It is no longer a race of age but a search for someone that is willing to represent small or large communities that are vulnerable.
But what’s important to consider is that in choosing who represents you, you get to choose someone that resonates closer to your ideals and beliefs of what a good world is like. By choosing a leader you feel is most competent, we may start breaking down the walls that disable us from creating and facilitating change that is important for us and our community. Choosing the lesser of two evils might not be something we all would like to do but it is the best option we have in lobbying for our lives.
What is most anticipated, I feel, is the experience of election day itself. The previous election was, in my opinion, the most exhilarating one yet. As someone who wasn’t able to vote, I was heavily invested and intrigued at how people responded to politicians cheating the elections and bargaining more than they could afford. I am mostly thrilled to see people ensuring their votes are safe and accounted for despite devious attempts at removing votes.
I hope to see the same thing this election whereby people flock the streets and fill voting areas to the brim. I want to see the Rakyat demanding accountability and how the Rakyat remembers the past few years, especially crucial moments such as the Lawan Protest and the Bendera Putih movement. I want to see and hear the proposed policies towards communities that require change and proper leadership. Therefore, despite all of the uncertainties and all of the drama we’ve seen — I am ecstatic to vote and to experience the General Election for the first time.
The first battle began when we demanded for our right to vote as individuals who will carry the burden of policies and laws made in the present. The next battle begins when we decide who represents us to shape our futures and the experiences we will live. I believe in the Rakyat, and I believe in Malaysia’s ability to break away from its current state — into something much more inclusive, tight-knit, and of justice.