Thursday, 6 January 2011

Why the young should vote?


Putik Lada, By EDWIN LEE YONG CIEH

Voting makes you feel good because you know you are involved in the democratic process, that your vote counts, and your voice is heard. And it is your right and responsibility, too.

WE ARE all familiar with voting. We have been voting since we were very young, from voting for class monitor in school, president of the student council in university, to voting for our favourite idols in reality TV shows such as Malaysian Idol and Akademi Fantasia.

However, when it comes to voting in a general or state election, we still find people who are reluctant, or who do not even care, to cast their vote.

The election is an important element in a democratic society. In the US Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (the third US president) wrote: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”

Put in layman terms, it means governments come into power because we, the citizens, grant them the consent to run the country. This reminds me of the famous quote by Abraham Lincoln (16th US president): “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

In Malaysia, Article 119 of the Federal Constitution guarantees every citizen’s constitutional right to vote in an election provided (a) he or she has attained the age of 21; (b) is resident in a constituency or, if not so resident, is an absent voter; and (c) is registered in the electoral roll as an elector in the constituency in which he or she resides on the qualifying date, unless he or she is disqualified under the law.

We are very fortunate because our right is guaranteed under the Federal Constitution. Unfortunately, some people do not appreciate the right to vote.

It is reported that as many as 4.3 million eligible voters have not registered themselves with the Election Commission, and many of them are young people who have just reached 21 (The Star, Aug 3, 2010).

This is an alarming figure in view of the total number of registered voters in Malaysia, which currently stands at 11 million (The Star, Sept 2, 2010).

There has been speculation that the 13th general election may be called anytime soon, and if this turns out to be true, a huge number of people, especially young people, will be deprived of their right to vote.

Why should young people vote?  It is an opportunity for them to choose the candidates or parties they wish to run and lead the nation. Voting recognises the right to equality; the right to speak and the right to be heard.

Many people complain that their voices are not heard, but they seem to have forgotten that they have been given the right to express their voice through the ballot paper.

Voting is a means to support the democratic system and to ensure that it will continue to work as long as people uphold the principles of democracy.

Not voting means giving up on our democracy, and this would upset our forefathers who have fought to preserve and protect our nation’s independence and democracy.

An election is an avenue for people to vote for honest and clean candidates of calibre who are fit and competent to lead the nation and be accountable and answerable to the people. It is the only time where changes can be made in the most peaceful and civilised manner without any violence involved.

Many election issues have far reaching implications on the people, especially the younger generation. Education, healthcare, employment, crime rate, corruption, fuel prices, environmental protection are among the issues that affect and will continue to affect the younger generation.

Therefore, young people should appreciate that voting is actually an opportunity for them to speak for themselves. Voting sets a good example to others who are not bothered to vote but merely talk.

Malaysians love to talk about politics. However, all talk but no walk would not make any difference. Voting is the best way to walk your talk, to tell the candidates that you care about the country; that you like to see how the country is run; how public funds ought to be spent; that you want them to bring positive development to the country.

There is a myth that “one vote doesn’t make any difference”. This is not true. If everyone thinks that his or her vote is not significant and chooses not to vote, the democratic system will collapse because of lack of confidence in the system.

Candidates who are voted in may not be representing the majority voice. This is dangerous because we are then putting our future in the hands of candidates who do not represent us, and we are letting them make decisions that may affect us.

In reality, every vote counts, and history has repeatedly shown that some candidates had in fact won by a slim majority.
Voting is also the trend now, and it is cool. You can proudly post a status on Facebook and Twitter and tell the world, “I have voted” or you can blog about Election Day.

Besides, voting makes you feel good because you know you are involved in the democratic process; that your vote counts, and your voice is heard.

So please, do get yourself registered. If you have already registered, just sit back, relax, do some reading and look forward to marking the “X” on the ballot paper in the near future.

Election Day is not another public holiday. It is one of those few events that come once in four or five years, and one of those days when you feel that you are as significant as anyone else on the street because your vote is of equal weight with theirs.

So make sure you vote on Election Day. Voting is not just a right; it is a responsibility, too.

The writer is a young lawyer. Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column – a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society. For more information about the young lawyers, please visit www.malaysianbar.org.my 

1 comment:

  1. Election is the only democracy in the West, right?

    ReplyDelete