KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 — Travelling hundreds of kilometres by air is not an obstacle for most students from Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak to exercise their role as first-time voters in the 15th General Election (GE15).
Not wanting to forego the benefit of the five-day leave given to students of higher education institutions (IPTs), they are eager to fly home to choose the candidate and party of their choice even though there are constraints such as flight ticket prices being too steep.
Mohd Aznirulnaim Abd Azis of Universiti Selangor (Unisel) from Tawau, Sabah, was gung-ho to vote for the first time and had bought flight tickets in advance to return to his hometown.
Pursuing Bachelor of Education (Honours) (Islamic Studies), the 22-year-old student said he had no qualms using his own semester savings for a one-way ticket at RM394 to exercise his duty as a Malaysian.
“I strongly encourage all students in all public and private IPTs to return home and vote because this is a very important matter. We must think about the future of the current and future generations if we (students) do not vote,” he told Bernama.
However, Mohd Aznirulnaim suggested that the government figure out a way to reduce transport fares during the election season to make it easier for students to return and vote.
For a medical student at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Nurul Anis Ramli, she too yearns to return to her Pusing hometown in Perak to vote, but has not yet bought an air ticket due to constraints.
The 19-year-old student said that she would snap up a home flight if the fares come down, considering that she still has to stretch the ringgit for campus life.
“My suggestion is that the government should provide transportation for less able students because even though ticket price comes down, it is still a large expenditure,” she said.
It is different for Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) student Nor Iqbal Mohd Sait, 24, who is still ‘contemplating’ going back to vote in Kuala Lumpur for the first time.
According to the Master of Social Sciences (Sociology) student, the dilemma takes into account the exorbitant cost of flying from the Bumi Kenyalang state to the capital, with a one-way flight ticket soaring to more than RM400.
Nor Iqbal stressed that the ‘traditional’ voting system needs to be re-looked in the future considering that in the era of globalisation, almost all aspects of life have been digitised.
“Urban areas should have e-voting which is common in large countries such as the United Kingdom (UK), France and the Philippines. For rural areas, it is undeniable that facilities may fall short,” he added.
Meanwhile, law student at Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) Muhammad Tirmizi Rabidin, 19, admitted that returning to Keningau in Sabah to vote is out of the question given the sky-high airfare as heavy traffic grows closer to polling day.
Furthermore, Muhammad Tirmizi said there are no direct flights from Alor Setar, Kedah to Kota Kinabalu.
Based on Election Commission records, as of Oct 9, for GE15, a total of 1,393,549 registered voters are aged 18 to 20 while 4,614,429 voters are aged 21 to 29.
The EC has set the polling day for GE15 on Nov 19, nomination of candidates on Nov 5 and early voting on Nov 15.