PETALING JAYA: There are still pockets of Malaysians who are reluctant to return home to vote despite the available aid channelled through crowdfunding efforts.
When the Election Commission (EC) announced that polling would be on a Wednesday, the opposition, civil society and voters protested, saying this would inconvenience voters who lived outstation or who worked overseas.
However, many employers expressed willingness to allow their employees time off so that they could return to their respective voting areas, and ordinary people volunteered to help fund those who needed money to travel home to vote.
The government subsequently declared May 9 a public holiday.
These initiatives have made it easier for voters working or living elsewhere to return to their polling centres to vote. But not all are interested.
James Tan, 33, does not plan on returning to Sabah to vote in this general election. But this is not the first time Tan is doing so; he did not go home to vote in the 13th general election, either.
He told FMT his decision not to return to vote in 2013 had not made much change in the results. So, he asked, why should he return this time either?
“I did feel like an outcast initially, but after the elections were over, life went on. I am still able to keep my freelance jobs and projects. Nothing has changed for me.
“I don’t see why I need to be part of the general election this time around,” said Tan who is a freelance graphic illustrator.
Asked what the general election meant to him, Tan, who admitted he had no interest in politics, said: “To me, whichever party wins, my daily routine still stays the same. It’s just a bunch of politicians fighting over power. Tell me when it’s over. I would like to get back to my life.”
Tan believes that whether he returns home to vote or not, Barisan Nasional (BN) will still win.
“I had this same conversation with my friends last general election, they were persuading me to go home. BN won, despite my friends voting the opposition. They told me that BN will win again this time around, but that they will still go back to vote against BN.
“I have never paid much attention to politics, and my life has been sailing smoothly. I don’t want politics to complicate it,” he said.
While her friends have all bought their flight and bus tickets home to vote, Kristine Lee, 29, said she did not understand the fuss about the general election.
She remembers registering to vote, but only because she was forced to do so by her friends.
“The EC staff came to where I studied when I was still in university. I went ahead and registered because it was too much hassle to make a trip to their office to get myself registered.
“Everyone around me is talking about how the 2013 election made a difference, but I don’t see how it has helped me get a better paying job,” said Lee, who is a senior auditor in an accounting firm.
Asked if she had considered going home to Pontian to vote, Lee said no.
“Whether it is a weekday or weekend, I don’t see how my vote will make a difference. It’s just one of me. There are so many others out there. I don’t think I’m that important. They can do without me,” she said.
Meanwhile, Haslinda Daud, 35, an engineer with a manufacturing company, said it was not about adequate funds or leave days; it was simply that she was no longer convinced by politicians and their talk.
“I voted in 2008. I travelled home to Perak from Kuala Lumpur. I was hopeful. But what happened? Nothing much has changed.
“Then 2013 came, and people told me to give it another go. I did. What do we see today? More scandals, and more politicians fighting against each other.
“So I have decided, I won’t be going home this time. For those who are still hopeful, I wish them all the best,” she said.
Haslinda added that it was getting harder to switch jobs and the cost of living was rising, but neither those in government nor the opposition were able to ensure better living standards.
“You know what people say, that these are just empty promises by politicians. Maybe they are right.
“I am happy with my life now – I have a job and have secured my own property. I worked hard to earn all these, and I have never benefited from government aid.”
These sentiments seem to mirror what academic Faisal S Hazis of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia previously said: that youths in general were uninterested in politics.
Faisal said Malays made up the bulk of those who had not registered, but believed this was a reflection of the country’s demographics. In 2016, the EC said Malays accounted for 43% of the unregistered 4.2 million eligible voters.
“Globally, youths around the world are just not interested in politics. Look at Brexit and how the youths did not go out to vote.”
Faisal also said the decline in the number of people registering to vote could be attributed to political fatigue, as well as the EC’s decision to prohibit political parties from registering voters.
As of July 2017, there were 3,772,149 individuals who had yet to register themselves as voters.
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