Cover Photo: Imran Sulaiman

The co-founder and education director for Undi18 wants to give Malaysian youths a voice in the next election

Qyira Yusri has always been very passionate about politics. Even as a student, she would often find every opportunity to discuss the topic with everyone she meets, whether it is her friends, classmates and even lecturers.

After returning from studying overseas, Qyira strongly felt that it is finally time to give Malaysian youths a voice. In 2016, she and co-founder Tharma Pillai initiated Undi18 with the vision of amending Article 119 (1) of the Federal Constitution to reduce the minimum voting age in Malaysia from 21 to 18 years old.

We speak to Qyira about how Undi18 has changed the dynamics of the electorate and could spell more youth representation in the halls of power.

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I’m glad Undi18 has finally achieved our objective despite the numerous delays. The memory of the day the High Court ordered the Election Commission (EC) and government to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 by December 31, 2021—that feeling of joy and relief will forever be etched in my mind. It feels good to be affirmed by the judiciary as well as our many young supporters. It’s about time that we allow the youth of Malaysia the right to vote.

Compared to most other countries, Malaysia was definitely behind the curve when it came to letting young people vote. In many countries, the voting age is below 21 years old, and there are even some that allow 16-year-olds to vote. It makes no sense that Malaysian youths are deemed less experienced or less rational compared to others.

I believe it is important that young people be able to vote. This is because voting is one way we can make our voices heard and hold our elected representatives accountable. By casting a vote, it sends a message to our politicians on what kind of leaders we want to have and what kind of policies we want implemented.

I remain cautiously optimistic that the government will follow through on its promise. It would set a very bad precedent if the government chooses to ignore the court’s decision, but I’m fairly confident that won’t happen.

My hope is that young people will go to the ballot box during the next election and vote not just with their hearts, but also with their minds. I also hope that the youth will be able to understand the ramifications and impact of their vote. Ultimately, it’s not a privilege to be able to vote, it’s a right and responsibility for all Malaysians.

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