Teenagers aged 15 this year will be eligible to vote when the 15th General Election comes around in 2023.
But will this group of young Malaysians be able to make an informed choice?
This is one of the question which arises after the Dewan Rakyat passed the amendment to the Federal Constitution to reduce the voting age limit to 18.
Also of concern are the measures required to properly educate them about national issues, as they are more inclined to gather information and opinions via social media.
Not only would they need to be aware of the country’s political scene, but also matters of governance, integrity and transparency, so that they can become voters who truly understand the concept of nationality and the democratic process.
Nurul Izzah Zolkifli, 18, who finished her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination last year, admitted that she lacked knowledge of the country’s policies and core issues, but had gained some exposure on what was happening in the country through Twitter.
“I always look at political issues, but only read the headlines. If you ask me how I will make my choice when voting, I’d prefer to choose the individual. If the candidate can implement what is promised in the manifesto well, I’ll vote for the candidate. The candidate’s personal issues will not influence my choice, ” she told Bernama.
Restaurant assistant Norafazreen Kamarul Zaman, 18, acknowledged that she prefers to look at the information on Twitter, based on topics that interest her.
“If the (political) issue is really interesting, I will read the whole story. In terms of voting, I would prefer a candidate who in my opinion, is qualified, credible and has good leadership qualities, ” she said.
Norafazreen added that nationalism and the process of democracy should be taught in schools and it must be neutral, without leaning towards any political party.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Academic Association Congress president Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Idrus Mohd Masirin said lowering the voting age would give youths a chance to prove their maturity and ability in evaluating candidates and parties.
“However, follow-up measures need to be implemented by the Government in the country’s education system so that the opportunity offered to the youth is not misused by irresponsible parties.
“Among the efforts that can be made is to provide early exposure at school level on politics, and the history of the country and the world, ” he said.
In KUANTAN, Pahang State Youth Council president Wan Emril Nizam Wan Embong said he hoped that the Education Ministry Education would provide an appropriate mechanism for students to be exposed to the democratic and political processes.
“This is because they will be involved in the process of choosing the (country’s) leadership and it will be their responsibility to determine the country’s future, ” he said.
Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs assistant secretary Zafril Nasir said exposure to the democratic and political processes in schools was important to prevent students from getting inaccurate information.
“At that age, they usually prefer to look for information on the Internet. I’m not saying the information on the Internet is incorrect, but there needs to be a more ‘official’ channel for them to get information on the voting process, ” he said. – Bernama