KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 — Giving 18-year-olds access to the ballot will invite greater public scrutiny of politicians in the country and promote accountability, said Senator Khairul Azwan Harun.
Khairul expressed his support for the Undi 18 movement in which Putrajaya is attempting a constitutional amendment to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.
“If we lower the voting age to 18, youth voters will become the strongest force in our voting democracy. Mobilised and critical, this segment will keep our leaders on their toes.
“The minute DAP decides to do things that overtly favour developers and businesses, or the minute PKR spends too much time deciding who will be the next PM or who is in the latest scandal video, Malaysia can count on the youth to be the earthquake that shakes these politicians from their sleep.
“It’s a check and balance, the next stage of our democracy,” he said.
Khairul, commonly called AzwanBro, compared arguments whether to lower the voting age to the chicken-or-egg dilemma.
He said Malaysians complained about the maturity of youths yet do not give them the opportunity to be mature.
The senator added that adults here complained that the youths do not understand politics but at the same time gave them no incentive to learn about politics as they cannot vote until they are 21 years old.
“This situation is similar to asking fresh graduates to have five years of experience before starting their first job. The conundrum is paralysing,” he observed.
Khairul also dismissed arguments that there are pockets of youths in the rural area who lack the sophistication, knowledge or maturity to vote at the age of 18.
Using Indonesia as an example, he questioned how an 18-year-old Indonesian was more mature than one in Malaysia, suggesting that local resistance to lowering the voting age was symptomatic of an inferiority complex.
He also rejected Wong Chen’s statement that allowing youths to engage in politics would make them susceptible to politicisation.
Khairul argued that lowering the voting age would ensure youths have more of a say in the country’s future while making political leaders more fearful of not delivering their promises to youths.
“Simply put, this argument against lowering the voting age is political gatekeeping. Just as there are youths who lack intelligence, there are also many adults who lack intelligence as well, the ones who fall prey to Islamic extremism.
“Just as there are adults who are smart, aware and well read, there are similarly youths who read sophisticated books, who learn coding on their free time, who fix bikes and make businesses by the age of 18.
“Are we really a society that is willing to let these smart, contributing civilians miss out on the opportunity to vote just because we believe others are not as smart?
“Under this logic, all adults under the age of 45 should be disallowed to vote because certain 45-year-olds believe that vaccines cause autism or that hot dogs are made from dog meat,” he scathingly said.
Khairul added that the youth will play a key role in the 15th General Election, especially with the complaints already rising due to the government’s mishandling of the PTPTN loan issue, false promises, continued rising costs of living and unaffordable housing for youths.
The latest polls have shown that after one year in power, nearly 44 per cent of Malaysian youths believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction — which is a massive drop compared to how they felt on May 9.