PETALING JAYA: Politicians who won in previous elections by fanning racial and religious issues may be in for a surprise when 5.6 million new voters cast their ballots the next time at the polls, says youth activist Adam Adli.
“Racial and religious issues are not the way to win the hearts of youths,” he said. “We are looking for politicians who can create job opportunities for us,” he told FMT.
Adam acknowledged that no studies had been done about the political preferences of young voters aged 18 onwards, however, comments on social media and his talks with youth groups show they may shun politicians who play on race and religion.
He said young people have been indoors for far too long because of Covid-19 restrictions and have lost schooling and job opportunities. “They do not want conservative thinking politicians,” he said.
A host of new voters will be on the electoral rolls at the next general election as the government has agreed on speedy implementation of the Undi18 initiative to lower the voting age to 18, and to provide automatic voter registration.
Political observers expect a general election to be called next year, although the current Parliament’s term expires only in 2023, because of the political uncertainty which has resulted in two changes of government in two years.
Adam said young Malaysians are active on social media and are critical of politicians who ignore their needs. They want their voices heard. However they would not be likely to reject older politicians “as long as they are not conservative and are in touch with the needs of the youths.”
In 2014, Adam was sentenced to a year’s jail for a speech urging people to organise a street protest against the 2013 elections results. The following year he was charged with taking part in an unlawful assembly but was acquitted three years later.
Undi18 a game-changer
Political analyst Kenneth Cheng said Undi18 and automatic voter registration is a game-changer as those born in 2003 will be eligible to vote and may not be able to relate to politicians fanning racial discord.
Cheng, a member of Agora Society, a loose network of intellectuals, said older politicians who fail to understand the young are likely to be booted out.
Some of the issues that are of concern to younger voters are college fees, job opportunities, housing and worsening environmental concerns.
He said that previously politicians could afford to raise college fees while keeping the older folks happy with higher pensions, but now the politicians will need to balance between the two.
Another analyst, Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said politicians may be uncomfortable with younger voters because many of them are unhappy with the existing political lethargy after 2018.
Pakatan Harapan had been voted in with high hopes that they would carry out reforms but were unceremoniously booted out of Putrajaya.
Oh said Umno and PAS have formidable election machinery with which to woo new voters and encourage those who have been automatically registered to go out and vote.
Umno has the “resources” to keep pumping into their constituencies, while “what matters for PAS is the continuation of relentless brainwashing of young and old voters alike to obediently support their eventual theocratic vision for the country,” he told FMT.
He said politicians will try to be nice with their younger voter bank by either trying to fulfil the needs of the youths or by brainwashing.
By : Minderjeet Kaur – FMT