Youth political awareness on the rise

PETALING JAYA: The constantly changing national political landscape since the 2018 general election and the party-hopping sagas have left many Malaysian youths confused over coalition line-ups and their grand directions.

Two NGOs – Reform Malaysia and YPolitics – have stepped up their work to remind Malaysian youths that their voices and votes still matter.

For Reform Malaysia, established in 2019, that means empowering youths with education, research and advocacy. Its latest initiative was a series of workshops to teach youths about the role of a parliamentary researcher.

Reform Malaysia deputy director Akmal Hisham Abdul Rahim said that since the last general election, the political playing field had changed.

“We think this is the best time to fill in the vacuum of political and institutional reform with political education,” said Akmal.

However, not all youths are interested in politics.

According to Akmal, only a small number of youths are interested in national issues because politics is a new subject to many.

“We need to take a closer look at our education system, particularly in secondary schools where civic and political education is lacking. We must educate them on the significance of politics in our daily lives if we want them to be genuinely interested in politics,” said Akmal.

Despite the general disinterest, Reform Malaysia still believes that many youths will come out and vote.

“There are many reasons why some have refused to cast their votes and we must understand why.

“Having said that, if you believe that your ballot won’t affect your daily life, you must reflect on the privilege that has shielded you from experiencing the ramifications of the failure of the current administration,” said Akmal.

An independent youth-led movement YPolitics is out to make politics an accessible topic. It has an initiative that uses comic books, infographics and illustrations to reach out to the young masses.

“YPolitics’ latest initiative includes developing two comic books to help young people, especially first-time voters, to better understand Malaysia’s political institutions and environment,” said Loh Kar Mun, YPolitics co-founder.

“We’re also working on (comics) to get people to understand postal voting better.”

YPolitics’ also has an advantage with its youth-driven volunteer base.

“They’re all very vocal and highly articulate about political issues,” she said.

Many youths are tired of unfulfilled promises made by older leaders, and many politicians are not in tune with the young, resulting in a lack of empathy between the two different generations.

“It would be good if political parties were to field youths as candidates and start addressing issues closest to youths,” she said.

“They want their voices to be reflected, perhaps more representation of the young in formal political institutions and processes.”

She also said the current political landscape had encouraged many youths to participate in politics and many were expressing their views on social media.

According to Loh, issues that concern youths are mostly about the high unemployment rate, stagnating wages, educational assistance, affordable housing, and lack of access to mental health services.

While some are angry about national politics, she said there were youths who were detaching themselves from politics.

“My message to them is ‘your vote matters, democracy cannot work effectively without your participation’. Don’t lose hope; this is our home and we must continue fighting. Use our vote wisely and remind the powers that we have a stake in our country’s governance,” added Loh.

For the upcoming GE15, it is estimated that around four million voters are aged 21 and below.

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