GE15: Young, First-Time Voters Deterred From Voting In Home States By High Airfares
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Political expert Azmi Hassan has highlighted the woes of young and first-time voters with regard to high travel costs as the country prepares to go to the polls for the 15th general election (GE15). He also urged the authorities to heed their grievances as they make up a significant portion of the electorate.

“Based on the Election Commission studies, 40% of the total voters are young voters (aged between 18 and 21 years old), and out of that, 1.1 million are first time voters. They will create an impact if they vote,” said Azmi, who is also a senior fellow at the Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research, adding that Malaysia has a total of 21 million voters.

Many of these voters may, however, reconsider returning to their home states to vote due to the high airfares – among other reasons. Azmi said that this is especially the case for those who need to travel from Peninsular Malaysia back to East Malaysia for the occasion.

For instance, it was reported that a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) and Kuching (Sarawak) a week prior to the polling date (single fare) is priced between RM250 to RM350 on Malaysia Airlines’ and AirAsia’s websites. The price of flight tickets after polling day, however, rose significantly; as such, those who travel home to vote may need to pay about RM600 to RM700 for round-trip tickets.

“I hope that subsidies, particularly for airfare, would be given to voters from Sabah, Sarawak, and in the Peninsular,” said Azmi.  

Meanwhile, caretaker Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong had reassured last week that the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) will regulate the prices of flight tickets ahead of GE15. He said that it is unusual for flight ticket prices to increase if there is a sudden surge of demand among passengers due to an event, as the dynamic price mechanism is in play. However, airlines that were found to have raised prices indiscriminately outside of the mechanism will be penalised.

Aside from that, several airlines – including including Malaysia Airlines, MASWings, Firefly, Batik Air, and AirAsia – have also said that they are offering discounted fares and adding extra flights to cater to the needs of GE15 voters. Malaysia’s GE15 is set to take place on 19 November 2022.

(Sources: New Straits Times, Free Malaysia Today)

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