Watan calls for Malaysian youth to register to vote

13 April 2017, Kuala Lumpur— A national voter registration and advocacy campaign that focuses on unregistered youth voters was launched today by a new NGO, Watan. Themed "Action Up, Be Heard", this campaign calls for nationwide participation towards nation-building by exercising the basic rights of democracy of voting. 

There is an alarming 4.1 million eligible Malaysians who have not registered as voters as of 31 December 2016 and the number continues to grow. The campaign aims to create a movement among Malaysian youth to be heard, inspire them to be registered, and ultimately be counted in their votes. 

"Findings from the focus groups conducted recently show that there is a worrying level of apathy among Malaysian youth. The underlining factors to their indifferences is mainly because they think that their voices don't matter and hence, their votes don't count. And to top that with the lack of good governance and leadership, these sentiments have kept them away from caring and participating in the voter registration process," said En. Mohd Yusaimi bin Md Yusof, president of Pertubuhan Gagasan Anak Watan Malaysia. 

Therefore, the campaign champions for two main calls— to take actions by expression what matters to you and register to vote to make your voices count. While freedom of expression is a good thing, real change can only happen when citizens collectively participate in the electoral process. 

Social activist, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, who was present at the launch, echoes the need for young people of the country to get involved. "If we look at the United States, millennials have been credited with the decisive vote in the 2012 election of Barack Obama for a second term as president, where he won 67% of the national youth vote. And what happened to the US today with Trump, one major factor was largely due to a lower voter turnout.

"There are important lessons we can draw from— that young people shape the future of a nation by replacing the previous generation in key political, social and cultural roles. Their voices (and votes) are more powerful than they give credit to." 

Working with a network of civil society and assistant registrar officers (AROs) appointed by the Election Commission, this campaign has been actively engaging Malaysians at ground level with its ongoing voter registration drives. 

"We are focusing our efforts across Klang Valley because data shows that it has the highest number of unregistered voters. For example, in Selangor state alone, there is approximately 1.1 million unregistered voters out of the 3.4 million who are eligible to vote. That's a real concern," continues En. Mohd Yusaimi bin Md Yusof. 

Watan welcomes the opportunity to partner with others who share common goals and values. The NGO also plans to meet with the Election Committee and puts forward three key recommendations to ease the registration process— to implement an Auto Voter Registration, or in lieu of that, Online Registration as an immediate need and for the list of Assistant Registrar Officers (AROs) to be made available publicly. 

"Action Up. Be Heard" will continue to engage with youth through its social media channels as a platform for their voices to be heard in this digital era and conduct voter registration drives. Some local celebrities and social influencers such as Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir (social activist), Aishah Sinclair (radio and TV host), Daphne Iking (TV host and emcee), Sasha Saidin (singer and actress), JinnyboyTV (Youtuber/influencer) and Yvonne Lee (Miss World Malaysia 2012 / Runner Up Amazing Race Asia 5) are lending their voices to champion this campaign.

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