A Young Malaysian’s Guide to the Election

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You’ve probably heard it before, most likely from that socially-conscious friend who volunteers with charities on the weekends: “Young voters can make a change!”

This is not blind enthusiasm from someone who predicted Donald Trump’s victory and has eaten one too many tofu burgers. Young Malaysians can actually make a difference through voting and here’s why…


Statistically, 21-30 year olds make up the largest number of registered and non-registered voters

source: Says.com

Research shows that 21-30 year olds make up 28.04 percent of Malaysia’s population as well as the missing 2.5 million voices in the total 3.8 million unregistered voters. That’s 2 out of 3 non-voters that are young Malaysians.

The reasons they have given for not participating–disinterest, distrust, and plain just “don’t know how to vote”–are all understandable but makes me wonder if the same young Malaysians are aware that they make up both the largest voting and non-voting age groups in the country?

This is a big break for young people here, for a lot of countries in the world the old rule with numbers–like Japan and Italy. But in Malaysia, it’s clearly our youth who will decide.


But first of all, why should we even bother voting?

Source: Watan (https://www.facebook.com/watankumalaysia/)

So if you are in the most important age demographic, why aren’t politicians listening to your issues?

According to polls, young Malaysians are mainly concerned about the economy (price hikes, employment, income level). It seems they care little about the cultural wars fought by previous generations. Millennials are generally practical, liberal and non-hierarchal people. This alone is a subject of contention because when has an old person ever liked a new lifestyle? If anything, your Tinder account scares them.

Hence, the latency in moving with the times. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for change because as you can see from recent campaigning on social media, your vote really does matter. The social climate of Malaysia keeps political parties on their toes and makes the country better especially when we actively participate in the voting process.


How to register, and why you should do it NOW even if you’re going to miss the coming GE:

(source: Giphy)

By right, every Malaysian should register when they turn 21. This is to avoid ‘putting it off’ as Malaysians are famous for procrastination and because the electoral roll is only updated once every three months. While you can register all-year long, according to the Election Commission’s (EC) website, it typically takes 6 to 8 weeks to certify the update every quarter.

Meaning if you registered from 1 Jan – 31 March 2018, you may only get to cast your ballots if the election is held after mid-May. Which is more the reason to just get it done with now, so you won’t miss the next one (yes, you say it’s 4 years from now but you know you need that head start).

You are eligible to register if you are:

  • a Malaysian citizen above the age of 21
  • a resident of an election constituency
  • not disqualified by any laws

You are not eligible if:

  • on the qualifying date, you are serving jail term or detained as a person of unsound mind
  • before the qualifying date, you have been convicted or sentenced to death or serving a jail term of more than 12 months and you’re still liable on the qualifying date
  • found guilty under the Election Offences Act, 1954
  • have a foreign citizenship (Malaysian citizenship law does not permit a Malaysian to carry dual citizenship)

The most convenient way to register is at a post office:

  • Head to the nearest post office with your IC
  • Fill in the voter registration form (Form A) and submit it to the registrar. The whole process should take no more than a few minutes
  • Once the process if done, be sure to check your voter details/status at Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya’s website by keying in your IC number

Alternatively, you may register at:

  • Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR) HQ at Aras G, Menara SPR, No.2, Jalan P2T, Presint 2, 62100 Putrajaya
  • Any of the state election commission offices

If you’re Malaysian who’s eligible to vote but you’re living, working or studying overseas, just follow this:

  • Go to any one of these three places; the Malaysian High Commission, Malaysian Embassy or the Malaysian Consulate
  • Let them know that you’d like to register as a voter and make sure you bring your IC and passport along
  • Fill in the relevant forms, ensure that all the details are accurate
  • Once the process is done, make a copy of the registration form as a reference


What is DUN? What is MP?

source: NST

Malaysia’s Elections happen at 2 levels–State and Federal. You have to vote for both.

At State level, you’ll be voting for your DUN assembly-man or -woman (who might be someone from the same school as you). Your DUN (Dewan Undangan Negeri or State Legislative Assembly) representative will be in charge of municipal affairs governing the civil direction of a community. Your DUN’s duty varies from ensuring there are no potholes in the roads to setting the direction of what’s permitted and what’s not in a particular township. The party with the most DUN seats forms the State Government.

At Federal level, you’ll be voting for your MP (Members of Parliament) who will represent you on national issues and policies. The party with the majority of MPs in the 222 seat House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat) will form the federal government and elect our Prime Minister.

Often times, State and Federal levels will overlap and intervene with each other–this happens a lot when it comes down to tricky issues like religion (conversion). By right, the Federal Court surpasses the State Court.

It’s your right to communicate to your DUN or MP, either in written form or at townhall meetings or any other appropriate setting, your concerns about your neighbourhood, community and Malaysia.


What you can and cannot do when voting on Election Day…

(source: Giphy)

On Election Day, you are not allowed to influence a voter to vote for a particular candidate, or to not vote at all, or to use third parties as agents to do so.

  • It is an offence to provide food, drinks or refreshments with intention to induce voters to either vote for a particular candidate or not vote at all.
  • It is illegal to provide monetary rewards for voting for a certain candidate.
  • It is an offence to obstruct passage to and from a voting centre as well as setting up a location for any candidate within 50 yards of the voting centre. Similarly, loitering in this zone is also an offence. Only voters are allowed in this zone on voting day.
  • It is technically an offence to provide transportation to a voting centre. However, this is not normally enforced as all parties do this to some degree.

Remember to bring your IC with you to vote. Don’t wear clothes or tee shirts associated with any political party or wave around party flags. Keep it neutral, guys.

After all is said and done, the Election is only a step in the process of democracy. We got to follow through and that’s a whole new chapter of being a responsible citizen AKA adulting. For now, just get registered.

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