In the midst of today’s busy 14th General Election, one that’s been called one of the country’s most hotly contested polls in its young history, Coconuts KL had a lot on our minds. Perhaps nothing more had our curiosity piqued than how Malaysia’s youth were approaching this year’s vote. And so we hit the street.
Speaking to young voters at polling stations, noodle shops, and yes — at the mall — we wanted to find out why casting ballots today was necessary, and their hopes and concerns for the future. We also encountered a non-voter, and asked what stopped him from exercising his democratic right today.
How important was voting today for you today?
It’s my first time voting because of my age, so it was quite special.
It feels nice that I can exercise my rights as a citizen and choose who should lead for the next five years. Friends of my age group weren’t as excited — a lot of them didn’t go out to vote
Why do you think there’s apathy in the youth ?
I think because a lot of us ’90s kids were brought up with the internet … you see all sides of the spectrum and it’s almost like information overload. We can see through the bullsh*t. Maybe that makes some give up, but those who know better will go out and vote because that’s what will make the difference.
What did you think of BN offering no taxes to all of those under 26? Is it something that could sway votes?
Not in Kuala Lumpur it won’t. Everyone under 26 is either still studying, or they’re earning so little that they don’t have to pay taxes at all. Maybe in the more rural it will interest voters?
What do you hope your vote will achieve?
Honestly, this year for me was a choice between sh*t and sh*ttier.
Why do you say that?
The history between the opposition’s leader and the rest of the party is too much to ignore. PKR and Mahathir were mortal enemies, and suddenly they’re best friends. It’s almost hard to stomach.
What do you think about Mahathir’s return?
A 93-year-old man comes back to rule a nation whose current predicament is his own making? What could go wrong? (A lot).
Ying Nee, 33
What were the biggest issues on your mind during this election?
Voter apathy among the youth, and the gerrymandering of some of key jurisdictional hot beds like Lembah Pantai.
Was it a strange bit of deja vu to see Mahathir back on the ballot?
Not so much, because I wasn’t old enough to have voted for Tun and his government. I am however from the Reformasi age (Ed. note: The protests initiated by Anwar Ibrahim after his dismissal as deputy PM by current party-mate Mahathir).
I was in my late teens during the uprising of ’97. Seeing him run with a party now which sprung up against his own tenure as prime minister is surreal.
Some of the apathetic kids say they’re not keen to participate politically because they won’t vote for a lesser evil. I think that’s highly flawed thinking.
As a good friend said to me, we choose the lesser evil all the time. During traffic jams, do you take the 2-hour route home or the 1-hour route home? You’d choose the lesser evil right?
What will be the most important issues in the next five years?
The perennial issues! Will our government be accountable? Even just answerable? Are we finally going to treat our elected officials as public servants, or with patriarchal deference?
And of course the bread and butter. Is the new government going to instate a minimum wage? How about address the blatant corruption and kleptocracy?
Is this your first time voting?
Yes, it’s my first election.
Why was it important for you to vote?
It’s not just about why it’s important for me to vote, but it’s important for the future for all of us, and for Malaysia.
What are you hopes for the future?
Like a lot of people, I hope for a better country, for a better environment.
What do you think the biggest issues are for you over the next five years?
Education is very important, and something that concerns me. The economy and making sure that it grows. Also, tourism — I think it’s important that we continue to be an appealing place for people to want to visit.
Why didn’t you vote today?
Actually, I’m registered to vote, but my hometown is quite far away. I would need to fly and it’s a couple hours.
Was it not worth it for you to make the trip home?
Not really, I know it’s not the best mentality, but I am only one person, and I don’t see that my vote would count in the bigger picture.
That’s terrible! Everyone’s vote matters because it’s our future!
Yes, I know. I just think that no matter who gets elected, they just have to get the job done once they’re there, and I don’t think it necessarily matters to me who ends up winning.
Do you think you will vote in the next one?
On what? What are the big issues that you’re worried about?
Cost of living. It’s getting crazy, it’s getting too much. If that continues to worsen, it might make a difference in me making the effort in the next election to vote.