Voting in Malaysia: Everything you need to know
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By Omar Idi Fazlul
With the recent passing of the UNDI18 Law, all students currently 14 or older will be eligible to vote in the next General Election. Unfortunately, most youth today often brush the burden of politics off their shoulders.
As a result, they vote blindly and end up falling victim to societal echo chambers, corruption, and hearsay.
Politics has been a game of “anything goes” for too long. It is time to wake up and realise that we are the actual players and should not be the ones being played.
Political awareness has been stuck in the confines of privilege and the birth lottery. Most individuals with access to social media and have parents who actively discuss politics generally have a better understanding of politics.
The opposite is likely true for those coming from less fortunate backgrounds.
It was funny, yet sad, to see that most who claimed they understood politics could not differentiate a party and coalition, or define a constituency.
To those reading this, this is your lucky day! Here is a brief and simplified breakdown of what you should know when it comes to voting!
How elections work
We do not choose the Federal Government just by voting. The system works via constituencies, which are divided areas around the nation.
Malaysia has 222 of them, such as Pasir Salak, Muar, and Besut; in which then the political parties would send a representative each to fight for the constituency.
The party that wins the most votes in the constituency wins one seat in the Dewan Rakyat of the Parliament.
In the end, the most seats that are won in Parliament by percentage would therefore become the actual Federal Government, with the head representative being the Prime Minister.
This works the same at the state level as then the party that has won the most constituencies in that state alone would be the State Government, with the representative being the Chief Minister.
Parties vs Coalitions.
We all know of Barisan Nasional (BN), Perikatan Nasional (PN), Pakatan Harapan (PH), and Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) – however, you will not be voting for these names specifically.
These are coalitions, – a group of parties that usually have similar views.
These coalitions consist of the actual parties that people will be voting for. Examples of these parties are UMNO, DAP, Parti Keadilan, and PEJUANG having distinct political stances, policies, and approaches.
Parties can compete independently without a coalition. An example of this was how MUDA branched off from Pakatan Harapan in the recent state elections.
So how do we know which party to vote for?
1. Always research the candidates in your area
During every election, there is always a nomination phase where the candidates from each party are introduced. Aspects to consider include their contributions to the country, actions, and possibly their past actions.
This allows you to understand the candidate better and rationalise which of their values align with yours.
2. Read the manifestoes of parties
Every party has their promises to the country. It is best that you understand what they are fighting for as it reflects their political stance. You can find out by reading them on the parties’ websites or by listening to their campaigns.
This also means that you have a responsibility to read up on development, social, and basic political issues to have a greater picture of what your candidates are talking about.
3. Align your interests with the party’s interests.
Politicians are good when they listen to what is right for society.
What is “right” is subjective, in which everyone has different interests as to what they want to see in a country. You have your own interests as well.
Therefore, consider choosing a party that aligns best with what you want. Be it social justice, economic development, better education, you name it.
4. Never listen to others who influence you to choose who to vote for
We live in a democracy. Our votes are kept secret. Your interests will always differ from the person next to you, be it your parents, peers, teachers, or colleagues.
Therefore, stick with what you believe in. Never give in to people who tell you to vote blindly.
Your ability and right to choose should not be dictated by others who let you down and make you believe your rights do not exist.
These should be all the basics you should know to vote in Malaysia. You can utilise your search engines, look through social media platforms, and even have discussions with your friends about how to be more knowledgeable when voting. Remember, politics will always be relevant and it is our duty to make it better.