World

Young Malaysians suffering from voter fatigue

They are disillusioned with old politicians from both sides, excessive politicking

Mr Muhammad Haziq, 24, studies automotive technology and acknowledges former premier Mahathir Mohamad's role in setting up Malaysia's national car industry.

But he does not feel strongly about voting for the 92-year-old's opposition party in the upcoming polls.

He is also not keen on voting in his constituency of Subang Jaya, Selangor.

Malaysia will hold its 14th General Election on May 9, the Election Commission (EC) announced yesterday, the first time in nearly 20 years that polls are not held on a weekend.

Nomination Day for candidates will be on April 28, after which parties can begin campaigning.

Mr Muhammad said he is not enthusiastic because there are too many old politicians on both sides and not enough young leaders who can relate to his struggles as a student, worrying about high costs of living and job prospects.

Mr Muhammad is just one of a growing number of young voters - aged 21 to 35 - who are disillusioned with politics and undecided on the candidates to trust to govern the country.

Market research firm Kajidata Research in its 2017 survey found that 51.8 per cent of its 1,000 respondents disavowed any political affiliation, saying they could not clearly identify with any of the major political parties despite displaying strong political awareness.

"Too much politicking" is the root cause of voter fatigue, political analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi told The Straits Times.

"Some of these politicians appear to view their designation as a career rather than a calling to help the people... And their failure to deliver their pledges is the main thing that contributes to youth voters' fatigue."

Malaysia's political parties are concerned about this disinterest because young voters form 48 per cent of the 15 million electorate.

Unsurprisingly, their election manifestos contain pledges targeted at this demographic.

Ruling coalition Barisan Nasional has unveiled measures to tackle youth unemployment, promising either a source of income or training within six months of unemployment.

Yesterday, its youth wing launched its manifesto with a list of promises to help the young, including reducing the financial burden of young couples.

Opposition pact Pakatan Harapan last month promised to defer study loan repayments for those earning below RM4,000 ($1,350) a month.

And the Gagasan Sejahtera alliance, led by Parti Islam SeMalaysia, vowed to abolish study loan debts altogether and give interest-free loans for first-time car buyers.

DISILLUSIONED

Despite these enticing offers, many young voters remain disillusioned.

"Any party can come up with a manifesto but voters are now aware these are mere political promises that can be forgotten once the parties win in the polls," analyst Awang Azman said.

While there are good youthful leaders from both sides, said columnist Hafidz Baharom, 35, they are often underneath much older ones who "should have retired by now".

"We are a nation with a median age of under 30 for our entire population. Yet look at our politicians, the majority does not reflect it anywhere."

WORLD