KUALA LUMPUR: The decision to allow 18-year-olds to contest in by-elections, beginning with the Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election in Johor next November is seen as a turning point for the country’s democratic system and political landscape.
Many feel that the by-election, which allows 18-year-old candidates to compete is a starting point that would bring a breath of fresh air in youth representation.
The Tanjung Piai by-election and the nomination of an 18-yer-old candidate is not only an opportunity to empower and represent a voice among young people but would also create history in the country’s elections.
In Kedah, State Youth and Sports Department deputy director Mohd Nizam Mat Daud said the decision would enable youths who aspire to represent the people to demonstrate their leadership potential.
“It is still early to see the effects of lowering the age in the election, but the Tanjung Piai by-election may be the benchmark,“ he told Bernama.
In Kelantan, Kelantan Darul Naim Voice Association president Darul Naim (Suara Kelantan) Isham Sharuddin said the scenario was interesting because the by-election would see an 18-year-old candidate contest for the first time.
He said the development showed that the democratic system in the country was healthier as young people were given the opportunity to voice their rights.
He said their views were definitely be different from those of older folks but would represent the youth.
On Tuesday, Election Commission (EC) chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun said any political party contesting the Tanjung Piai by-election on Nov 16 could nominate an 18-year-old candidate.
The decision is in line with the amendment of Article 47 of the Federal Constitution which was gazetted on Sept 10.
However, the decision also received different reactions from some who thought it was a hasty move because the voting age at 18 has yet to be finalised.
In Selangor, acting Selangor Youth Council (MBS) president Mohamad Syafiq Ridzwan said the EC should enforce the eligibility limit for candidates and voters at the age of 18 simultaneously and not separately.
“MBS is of the opinion that the eligibility of 18-year-old candidates should be made concurrently with the eligibility of 18-year-old voters. The EC needs to be more careful in this regard and not too eager to appear ‘inclusive’ and makes a partial decision,“ he said when contacted by Bernama.
In Johor, the same opinion was expressed by Johor Youth Council (DMJ) Coordinator Ahmad Solehin Abd Ghani who felt it strange that an 18-year-old could not vote despite being a candidate.
“The DMJ was informed that the automatic registration system for the age of 18 as a voter will only begin in mid-2021. The DMJ thinks the period is too long.
“Imagine an 18-year-old candidate contesting in the Tanjung Piai by-election, but he cannot vote. It is very strange and goes against the standard practice,“ he said in a statement posted on the DMJ’s Facebook page.
In Terengganu, PAS Central Election director Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar said the EC should ensure that the decision does not have a legal impact especially if a young candidate wins the by-election.
“The EC has to look at the legal aspects. We do not want a situation where the candidate wins and is suddenly challenged by another party. We need to look deep so that there are no legal issues,“ he said.
Ahmad Samsuri said the selection of candidates for the general election is very different and not the same as appointing a club chairman or association representative.
Negri Sembilan’s Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement secretary Fakruradzi Abdullah said the move should not have been so sudden and teenagers should have been given early exposure instead.
“I acknowledge that we (the country) have an initiative to educate young people on voting awareness including establishing the Malaysian Youth Parliament to expose young people on how to govern, debate and deliberate the people’s affairs including the state administration system.
“However, to me, the candidate who wants to contest in the election should have the experience in the political world and not just knowledge because in the political world there are many challenges,” he said.
The Tanjung Piai by-election will be held following the death of incumbent Datuk Dr Md Farid Md Rafiq, 42, on Sept 21 following a heart attack.
In the 14th General Election, Dr Md Farid, an anesthesiologist, from the Pakatan Harapan-Bersatu won the parliamentary seat with a 524-vote majority.
He, who was also the Tanjung Piai deputy division chief, received 21,255 votes to defeat Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng (BN-MCA) and Nordin Othman (PAS). Wee received 20,731 votes while Nordin, 2,962.
The Tanjung Piai is the ninth by-election after the general election on May 9, 2018.
The previous by-elections were in the state legislative constituencies of Sungai Kandis, Balakong, Seri Setia, Semenyih and Rantau while the parliamentary constituencies were Cameron Highlands, Port Dickson and Sandakan. — Bernama