Danial Rahman

Danial Rahman has education close to his heart. He tweets at @danial_ari and welcomes feedback at danialrahman0330@gmail.com.



VOTING in the upcoming 14th general election (GE14) isn’t just a single act. Rather, it is the continuation of a journey of our beloved nation, which youth especially play a role in sculpting.

I have a perfect record when it comes to voting in the Malaysian general election, having never missed the opportunity to cast my ballot since being eligible to vote. To date, it’s been a grand total of one out of one, or as they say, a 100% record. Hey, I did say “election”, not “elections”.

Anyway, it was a very memorable experience. Back then, I was pursuing my master’s degree in the United Kingdom. It was the first time Malaysian civilians were allowed to vote as postal voters.

I remember waking up early in the morning on April 28, 2013, to take a train from Oxford to London. We were voting in advance – GE13 would take place a week later on May 5.

When I arrived at the Malaysian High Commission in London at approximately 10.30am, there were already many Malaysians there.

Most heartening was to see many young Malaysians showing up.

We were each given a queue number indicating our turn to vote. We were informed that wait times could be a few hours due to the large crowd.

In order to pass the time, I walked around the city, including a trip to Harrods to look at all the things I couldn’t afford (and still can’t).

The “few hours” turned into about nine hours. I was finally able to cast my ballot at about 7.30pm.

Yes, it was a bit of a wait. This was the first time such an exercise was undertaken and understandably the Malaysian officials faced logistical challenges.

Despite some agitation, the wait didn’t dampen the spirit of the Malaysians present.

There was a palpable excitement in the air. Malaysians from all over the United Kingdom had come to exercise their rights as citizens to democratically elect their next government.

There was a sense of accomplishment among them, as reflected in the cheering when voters exited the voting area in the high commission’s building. Perhaps part of it was due to relief.

Those I spoke to were happy that the Election Commission had instituted postal voting for Malaysians abroad.

Despite being thousands of kilometres away, their passion for the nation and her future was undeniable.

Partaking in the GE was, to them, an expression of love for the nation. Patriotism was the order of the day.

Nearly five years down the line, many things have happened. The nation has witnessed its share of ups and downs as well as challenges and successes.

Soon, Malaysians will once again head to the ballot boxes to vote in GE14.

As it was five years ago, the role of youth in this election has again cropped up, including the surrounding discussions on the #UndiRosak movement.

For context, according to the Elections Commission, as of September 2017, approximately 42% of the 14.8 million registered voters are aged between 21 and 39.

And out of 3.7 million Malaysians yet to register, two-thirds are aged between 21 and 30.

Definition of youth aside, this indicates that youth will play an important role in the upcoming election.

If I could speak to my younger youthful self, here’s what I’d say about voting.

First, go out and do it. The youth must participate in the democratic process and experience it.

Voting means having your say. Not voting means to deny yourself that voice. In any democracy, there will be winners and losers, the happy and the sad.

Whichever side you are on, whether it stays the same or changes in the future, express it and feel it.

Second, remember that voting is part of a journey. After you vote, remain active within the democratic process.

Do you know your Member of Parliament? What about your State Assembly representative?

Have you written to him or her? Have they responded?

During a visit to the United States in 2016 to observe their elections process, I was impressed by how active their young people were.

This wasn’t just during election time, but especially before election season. Writing in and expressing their feelings on issues was vital. It helped them determine how they’d vote eventually.

I think most of our political engagement in Malaysia is generally limited to liking politicians’ Instagram photos. Hey, it’s a viable means of communication, but there can always be greater depth.

Regardless of whether your candidate won or lost, engage with them.

Third, remember that you (we) are the future. This Malaysia of ours wasn’t built in a day.

From the establishment of Malaya in 1957 and then Malaysia in 1963, we are undergoing a dynamic nation building effort. Democracy, like life, isn’t static. It continues developing and will continue beyond even our lives.

Therefore, be aware of the issues, be sincere with what you want this nation to be, and work towards it collectively. Want more youth or women representation in Parliament?

An improved education system? Unhappy with voting districts? How about universal basic income? Speak up.

Know the sacrifices and efforts it took to get to where we are, and what more it’ll take moving forward.

Our democracy can only mature if today’s youth approach it maturely.

Related to this, youth must also consider serving in public office one day.

All said and done, Malaysia is our home and her future is in our hands.

For now, I look forward to maintaining my perfect voting record come GE14.

Originally published on The Star Online on Thursday, February 15, 2018.