KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 — Malaysians aged 18 to 21 could play a significant role in shaping the outcome of the 15th general election (GE15), said leaders from Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) and the Undi18 movement.

Muda information chief Luqman Long said political parties planning to dismiss the group would do so at their peril, notwithstanding predictions that the majority in the age group would ultimately not end up casting their ballots.

He believed the young, first-time voters would buck predictions of their political apathy, and be an important deciding factor in GE15.

“I am optimistic that they know — in order to change the course of this country in a way that actually appreciates, respects, and values the youth — they will go out to vote for the party that fights for them.

“If political parties refuse to accept the fact that the youth are the focal point, they would face deep trouble. There would be fatal consequences if they dare to disregard the voice of the youth,” he told Malay Mail.

To this end, Luqman said Muda’s main focus would be championing the youth in matters such as the cost-of-living crisis, the lack of affordable housing, the quality of education, and dignified wage for all to lift Malaysia up the global value chain.

He said Muda was not only aiming to empower the youth by representing them in such matters, but also to ensure that the typically underserved segment would have a pathway to become decision- and policy-makers in the country.

Luqman stressed to young voters that GE15 could potentially shape the country’s future for years and possibly decades to come, making it imperative that they make their voice heard now that they have a chance to participate in elections.

“For the next GE, we are not only acknowledging the youth, but we are also empowering and fighting for them as the future leaders of our nation,” he added.

Undi18 co-founder Tharma Pillai acknowledged that while the youth vote was demonstrably low in previous state elections, this would be different in GE15.

He also argued that the turnout had been low in general during the Sarawak, Melaka, and Johor elections, and expressed confidence that youths would play a bigger role in GE15.

Tharma also suggested that young voters might be less engaged with state politics due to migration, but would be more interested in national politics by virtue of residing in urban locations.

“And many of these voters may not be living in their hometown anymore, they may only be voting in their hometown. So, these kinds of urban voters, who originally came from rural areas, might be concerned about federal matters more than state levels,” he asserted.

He also warned against dismissing the value of the youth on the off chance that they were less likely to vote, saying that even a small segment of this age group could alter the result of any election.

“In fact, I believe that it’s impossible for the political parties to tone down their efforts, but would instead double them to appeal to young voters, with the realisation that voters 18 to 40 years’ old are currently the majority of voters in Malaysia, forming 51 per cent of the electorate,” he added.

On Monday, caretaker prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that Parliament has been dissolved to pave the way for GE15 to be held within 60 days.

The Election Commission said yesterday that it will only meet in October 20 to decide the key dates of GE15.

In 2019, Parliament unanimously agreed to amend the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 years’ old, and simultaneously introduced automatic voter registration.

Both amendments came into effect last year, adding around 5.6 million voters to the electoral roll.