Youth voters on the challenges ahead

PETALING JAYA: Even as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim clocked in for work on his first day as Prime Minister, young voters have laid out priorities for him and the administration he is putting together.

Like many of their peers across the world, they are worried about climate change, earning a living, and education.

First-time voter R. Swethra, 19, suggested more scholarships and financial aid for underprivileged students.

“Students from B40 and M40 households should be given financial assistance because I have seen my fellow students discontinuing their studies after secondary school mainly due to their financial circumstances.

“The government should also introduce initiatives that either reduce students’ National Higher Education Fund Corporation or PTPTN loan repayments or extend their deadline, given that the starting salary of most fresh graduates is typically very low,” said the psychology student.

Another Undi18 voter, Kavisvara Nair, 19, said that more emphasis should be placed on safeguarding marginalised communities.

“Steps and measures should be taken to ensure that the welfare of the poor and marginalised communities be protected.

“Although attempts were made in the past, they have not been successful, and therefore the new government should give priority to this issue,” said the software engineering student.

Wesley Lau, 21, said that the government should increase the minimum wage requirement.

“As I am preparing to graduate and step into the workforce, I want to be sure of the fact that I can live somewhat securely on the income I earn.

“Increasing the minimum wage will give us a fighting chance to survive,” he added.

The communication student said inflation and the rising cost of living should also be looked into.

Other issues of concern for youth are freedom in youth activism, and ending child marriages and sexual harassment.

“As a woman, I would like to see more initiatives being taken to protect women and children in this country, and I do not want these issues to be ignored anymore,” said 24-year-old communications student Praise Tan.

Corruption is another highly discussed issue among young voters.

“Corruption undermines the democratic process because it disregards the voice of the people and causes political instability – therefore, I hope the new government strictly upholds good governance,” said Kavisvara.

The Election Commission (EC) has yet to report the turnout rate of young voters in the 15th General Election (GE15) following the Undi18 legal amendments.

However, the Undi18 group estimated that about 75% of first-time voters had cast their ballots.

The group’s co-founder Tharma Pillai said the projection was based on the Johor state election held earlier this year.

“Although we don’t have concrete data yet for GE15, we believe that the Undi18 voter turnout rate could be 75% based on the voter turnout reported by the EC,” he said.

The EC had announced that the GE15 voter turnout was 73.89% without taking into account three parliamentary seats namely Padang Serai, Baram and Kota Marudu.

There were nearly 1.4 million Malaysian voters between the ages of 18 and 20.

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