By Azalea Azuar
Poster by @kim.mie.art on Instagram
2019 was a historic year for Malaysian youths because the minimum voting age was lowered from 21 years to 18 years.
The Constitution Act (Amendment) 2019 stipulates, among others, requires a citizen who reaches the age of 18 and is eligible to vote to be automatically registered as a voter by the Election Commission (EC).
The bill was passed by Dewan Rakyat on July 16, 2019, and Dewan Negara on July 25 of the same year.
This year, those aged 18 and above have been automatically registered as voters without having to make an account on the MySPR Daftar portal or going to the post office.
Are Malaysian youths even interested in politics?
Despite the automatic voter registration for those above the ages of 18, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri observed that many of them are unaware of it.
"Many young voters don't know that their names have been listed on the electoral roll. Now, when they turn 18, they automatically become voters. Some don't know this.
"There have been occasions where I met young voters, especially students, and they didn't know they were already on the electoral roll," he said in a report by The New Straits Times (NSTP).
Moreover, the Merdeka’s Centre National Youth Survey indicated that 66% of the youth believe that leaders and politicians “do not care”, and 70% of them have little interest in learning about politics.
Another 78% revealed that political and government issues are complicated.
Yet politics should be important, especially among the youth since they are the catalysts of the future.
Other key issues such as education, healthcare, employment and environmental protection are also directly impacted by political outcomes.
I’m an artist but why should I care?
Currently, there are two ministries in Malaysia that are primarily responsible for developing the local art scene which are the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) and the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia.
However, other ministries do indirectly play a role as well.
A great government would mean that we have better freedom of expression, understand the needs of the artists (especially during hard times) and make Malaysia an artistic hub not only in the South-East Asian region but internationally.
Under MOTAC’s “Buy Art Malaysia” initiative, a total of 1,130 artworks worth more than RM3.7 million has been purchased from 64 art galleries nationwide in 2022.
The campaign started last year to assist artists which were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as well boosting the recovery of the art sector.
The ministry has allocated a total of RM1.06 million for this initiative where each voucher is worth between RM500 to RM1,000 depending on the value of the art.
K-KOMM through its various agencies such as the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) and the Cultural Economy Development Agency (CENDANA) has allocated grants to develop the Malaysian arts scene.
Moreover, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) is responsible for tabling the annual Federal Budget where a certain amount of funds will be allocated to each ministry to develop a certain area.
Not only do we want to vote for a government with excellent initiatives but also a clean and transparent one where the funds can be used to develop the local arts scene.
Just imagine if we can have more funds that can help to channel projects that will support emerging artists to exhibit their artworks in the Louvre or have stricter enforcement on copyright issues.
Wouldn’t that be great?
Using art to raise awareness on voting
Elections are held every November in the US. It was only in 2020 that Christine Messineo started the “Plan Your Vote” campaign in collaboration with US non-profit organisation Vote.org.
It involved the artworks of American artists including Patti Smith, Derrick Adams, Michael Stipe and Sally Mann who displayed their masterpieces in art galleries Guggenheim and the New Museum with a powerful message - urging Americans to vote.
It aims to empower Americans to own their voting rights, providing accurate, up-to-date voting registration details for all states, as well as mail-in and absentee voting information, polling locations and deadlines.
The artworks were available on Vote.org’s website which can be downloaded so that people can share it around on their social media pages to raise awareness on voting.
On the other hand, Japanese artists composed of illustrators, designers and even manga artists have teamed up for the “Vote Poster 2021” movement to increase voter turnout rates among the youth for its General Elections.
Perhaps it would be fantastic if Malaysia can come up with these kinds of initiatives.
It would be interesting to see a collaboration between art communities and youth political awareness movements.
However, there are already some of our talented local artists doing their part to raise voter awareness such as @maverick_yeasty_potato, @bedul.offcial and @themokumentary who are making comics about the upcoming 15th General Elections (GE15).
Do check out their social media pages and spread the word!
Voting is important, and your voice matters.