EDUCATION, jobs and housing are the main factors that will influence the voting patterns of young people, especially those in the Undi18 group.
Bersih chairman Thomas Fann says these factors should be taken up by every party to attract young people because they are the future of the country.
“They need to talk about key policies or policies that are interesting and close to the hearts of young voters such as education, employment and housing issues.
“An important issue for young people is affordable and good education, which will not be a big burden for them.
“And this in turn will provide employment opportunities for them,” he says in an exclusive interview on Undi18.
Fann says the state also needs to provide a policy that can create high-income employment opportunities.
“We want young people to get job opportunities with lucrative wages; that is most important,” he says.
He adds that the group also needs affordable housing that can help them to start a family.
According to him, the existing housing offers are now more for those with high or medium-high incomes.
“For example, in Johor Baru and the surrounding areas, there are many condominiums, but those are worth up to RM1mil or more, and many are vacant.
“Affordable housing, meanwhile, is not enough and many people are waiting. That’s one wrong policy.
“So we need young people to put pressure on anyone who wants to win their vote to change the policy.
“We don’t need luxury condominiums for investors from abroad but we need affordable housing for our people,” he says.
In the meantime, Fann says, the Undi18 policy shows the maturity of the country’s political system and is a good move, even though it was late.
He says most mature and developed countries in the world have opened up space for 18-year-olds to cast their votes.
“This is necessary and must be done. I have said many times that if an 18-year-old can be hanged if he commits a crime, why can’t he be a voter?
“If 18-year-olds can be soldiers and die for the country, why can’t they vote?” he says.
Fann acknowledges that the implementation of Undi18 would also put huge pressure on political parties to field younger candidates.
“This will give an opportunity to members of the youth and Puteri wings to be nominated by their party.
“As most young people feel that young candidates would understand their needs better, it will be a great pressure, because in our country, the average age of elected representatives is quite advanced.
“There are parties where the average age of elected representatives is 60, 50 or 40 years old, but with this (Undi18), I believe there is pressure on them to field younger candidates,” he says.
Adds Fann, to win the votes of young people is not an easy path and requires publicity and public education.
According to him, the government needs to draw up a long-term plan to make Undi18 an incentive for civic education for students.
“We need to have a programme in education where every student will understand their role as a citizen, their rights in the Constitution and their responsibility to play a role as voters or politicians.
“So to me this is a ‘catalyst’ that must bring change in the national education system.
“Otherwise, like before, everyone will not have the opportunity to understand the Constitution and our rights until they go to university. At that time, they will already be 19 or 20 years old.
“But with Undi18, we want more mature and responsible voters, so we should start civic education from a young age,” he says.
This article is part of 'Undi18: My country, my decision', the first joint report by the Media in Arms, a media alliance comprising The Star, Sinar Harian, Sin Chew Daily and Astro Awani.