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For some, going home to vote a distant and expensive dream

They say they cannot afford to make the trip back to their home towns as the election is slated for the middle of the month.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
Voters queue at a polling centre in Muar, Johor, for the state election there in March.
Voters queue at a polling centre in Muar, Johor, for the state election there in March.

Some 21 million voters across the country will be eligible to cast their ballots at the long anticipated election on Nov 19 – but not all of them may make it to the polling booth in order to do so. 

For some, travelling back to their home town in order to vote is literally a distant dream as they lack the money to make the trip in the middle of the month, some two weeks before payday. 

Farahin Abas, 29, works as a nanny in Singapore. Speaking to MalaysiaNow, she said she did not plan to travel back to Johor for the election as she had already returned to vote at the state polls in March. 

"I have to save, otherwise I won't be able to go back for Hari Raya," she said. 

A total of 21,173,638 people are registered to vote at the 15th general election (GE15). 

Of these, 20,905,366 are regular voters, 146,737 are military voters and their spouses, 118,794 are police officers and their spouses, and 2,741 are overseas absentee voters. 

Farahin, who hails from Batu Pahat, said she only began receiving babysitting requests and a basic salary early this year. 

During the pandemic, she received neither salary nor compensation from her company. 

"I had to spend a lot of money to pay off my credit card bills," she said. 

"During the pandemic, I ordered my food online, and I also had to pay my car and study loans. 

"My home town is only in Batu Pahat, but I don't know how I would be able to go back for the election." 

Lai Li Hing from Kuching, Sarawak, cannot afford to go home for GE15 either. 

"The flight tickets were all too expensive," Lai, who is studying at a university in the Klang Valley, said. 

"After looking at all of the prices, I decided not to go home – it's just too expensive." 

As a first-time voter, she said, her situation was unfortunate. 

"Of course I wanted to participate in the ambiance of the election," she added. 

"I am just starting to learn about politics." 

Mohd Zaidi from Pasir Mas in Kelantan also works in Singapore as a customer service officer. 

He feels that it is not worthwhile to go back only to vote for a parliamentary seat. 

"I will go back next year to vote at the state election," he said. 

Kelantan and Terengganu, both under PAS rule, as well as Negeri Sembilan, Penang and Selangor, under Pakatan Harapan administration, had decided against dissolving their state assemblies, in a break from tradition which usually sees states holding their elections alongside the national polls. 

Melaka, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak meanwhile held their state elections either last year or early this year. 

Zaidi said some in his home town had said that parties were ready to pay voters RM100 if they returned to vote. 

"But even RM100 is not enough," he added. "The bus fare alone from Johor Bahru to Kelantan would be more than RM70." 

Farahin meanwhile said that while the cost of returning to Batu Pahat was not too high, she needed to save for food, and give money to her parents. 

"To do this, I need money," she said. "I am still saving up."