KUALA LUMPUR: The recent general election saw the rise of young urban voters who came out to express their democratic aspirations, said Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.
When Barisan Nasional was taken by surprise in the 2008 elections, what caused the turnaround of events did not happen in just a few months.
Former Malaysian Youth Council president Saifuddin said “The shift of young people’s mindset started in the 1980s. The youth of that era are now parents to today’s youth which is the third phase of democracy.”
Saifuddin, who was himself voted out as Temerloh MP in May, explained that since his days as a student leader in Malay College Kuala Kangsar, youth have always wanted their voices to be heard.
“New realities emerged throughout the years and ocial consciousness that lead to social movements which acts as catalysts to form the third phase of democracy,” said Saifuddin.
He further explained his thoughts on old and new politics.
“Old politics is about welfare and infrastructure of the community which I call ‘developmental hopes’,” he said.
“New politics is about ‘democratic hopes’. Gone are the days where you say you can’t discuss certain issues because it is sensitive. Youth today do things unconventionally and a classic example is Bersih,” said Saifuddin.
He pointed out that the older generation who still hold strongly towards ‘developmental hopes’ are constituencies that Barisan has won.
Despite the swing of young urban voters from his observations, Saifuddin believes that every young Malaysia still hold this nation close to heart.
“No doubt, youth still love their country. They are no less patriotic than the older generation that supports ‘developmental hopes’,” he said. “The way they express themselves and the love of the country is different.”
After the 2008 elections, Saifuddin said that the government started to learn to communicate with the youth by introducing various initiatives such as the programs under 1Malaysia For Youth (iM4U).
As a matter of fact, the Perdana Fellows Programme is the most recent initiative to bridge the gap between the government and the youth.
*For a more detailed story on young people and their interest in politics and policy-making, pls check out The Star's R.AGE cover story Policy Matters on Friday, August 30