Young voters must first be told about democracy, says analyst

KOTA KINABALU: A political analyst here feels the Dewan Rakyat was rushed into approving a proposal to give 18-year-olds the right to vote. He said young people must first be educated about the privilege they would be given.

“No harm in taking some more time on this matter,” said Lee Kuok Tiung of Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

He told FMT that the Election Commission had much to do. “For example, the EC needs to clean up the electoral roll first,” he said.

Last week the Dewan Rakyat passed a bill to allow 18-year-olds to vote and stand as candidates in elections, and to allow for automatic voter registration.

Lee Kuok Tiung.

Lee said Malaysia should emulate countries which allow voting at 18 and who expose their children to democracy and voting at a very young age. “If we want to follow the countries that allow 18-years-old to vote, we must take it as ‘package’ which means we also need to revamp or do modification to our education system.”

He said the new voting age will certainly change Malaysia’s political dynamics, with a big pool of younger voters given the power and responsibility to decide on the nation’s political direction.

Lee said the proposed new voting age was a potential game-changer for politicians to listen to voters at secondary schools, colleges and universities.

School teachers and university lecturers would indirectly have a role to play in shaping the thinking of young voters. “We must consider our culture – obedient children might just follow their parents, teachers or lecturers on who to vote.”

He described as a myth the notion that young voters would vote for Pakatan Harapan. “They have their own way of thinking and their own priorities.” At the same time it was too early to say whether it was the ruling government or the opposition who would benefit from the policy.

“But one thing for sure is we must pay more attention to the adolescents’ voices and concerns. Don’t simply judge them of being immature based on their age because many of those ‘older’ voters have immature thinking.