Youthful aspirations: Are young people too jaded to vote in 2018?

Khalil: ‘Young people are tired of having every issue politicised.’

After a year of much speculation and many guessing games, the wait is finally over – the highly-anticipated 14th General Election (GE14) must be held by August 2018.

The constants are there: The ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, is aiming to get back a two-thirds majority and wrest back a key state or two. The Opposition alliance, Pakatan Harapan, is hoping to form the federal government.

However, the political landscape is much more dynamic than it was in the last general election. Alliances have shifted: PAS has pulled out of Pakatan, while two new parties have been formed, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Parti Amanah Negara.

Pribumi is led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s longest-serving premier, and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the former deputy premier. Amanah comprises former PAS members.

No wonder some are expecting GE14 to be “the father of all elections”.

Political parties are already crafting their strategies, cutting the demographics across many factors: Rural versus urban areas, state lines, race, and socioeconomic classes.

There is one demographic, however, that many political analysts and observers across the divide agree will be the kingmakers: youth.

But there is one problem.

Studies have shown that those aged between 21 and 30 are just not interested in voting, largely due to the distrust they have of politicians.

And this is where young politicians come in, as they need to convince these youngsters to cast their ballots – many, for the first time in their lives.

Regardless of whom they choose to be in government, they believe that these youngsters hold the power to cast a deciding vote.

Khairul: ‘I always prioritise dialogue and engagement with youth.’
Kasthuri: ‘(Youth) are exposed to issues such as human rights, clean and fair elections.’
Chong: ‘Young ones need ... leaders who can guide them towards a better nation.
Khalil: ‘Young people are tired of having every issue politicised.’

Aware that the young people are the kingmakers, MCA Youth chief Datuk Chong Sin Woon said that to gain back their trust, political parties should not give up on them, but rather guide them in addressing their needs.

“I understand their frustration. Some do not even want to vote for either Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan.

“But the young ones need direction and they need leaders who can guide them towards a better nation,” he said.

According to Chong, this is where the Government plays its role, by urging youth to invest in new technology and take advantage of the Digital Free Trade Zone.

“We are pushing for e-commerce, which is a platform for young people to get more income.

“Young people must stop complaining and becoming keyboard warriors. They have to step out into the real world and start working on improving their lives,” said Chong, who is also the deputy education minister.

Umno deputy youth chief Khairul Azwan Harun believes that although youth are no longer interested in politics, this does not mean that they are ignorant.

This is because youth today prefer to be more facts-based rather than just cleaving to political rhetoric, he said.

Khairul said this is why the Government has chosen to reach out them, so they can contribute their ideas, thoughts and concerns.

“We no longer live in a time where government knows best. This is why I always prioritise dialogue and engagement with youth. I always hold town halls, addressing imminent issues,” he added.

According to DAP lawmaker Kasthuri Patto, the Opposition has always championed the voices of youth, as they are important in moulding the kind of nation they want to see.

Despite media reports labelling millennials as “disinterested” or “jaded”, the Batu Kawan MP believes the same group of people are much more exposed to the Federal Constitution and how a country is supposed to run.

“They are exposed to issues such as human rights, clean and fair elections, better housing, job opportunities and bankruptcy.

“They know what to demand from the Government and in the Opposition-led states Penang and Selangor, their voices are heard,” she said.

PAS Youth chief Khalil Abdul Hadi also believes that it is time for politicians across the board to change their strategy in order to win the hearts and minds of the youth.

“I am quite worried to know that the youth are not interested in discussing politics, but I believe this is the result of how the politicians present themselves.

“Young people are tired of having every issue politicised. We need to have more mature politics, where spewing rhetoric and throwing jabs at each other should stop,” he said.

Although it remains to be seen when exactly the general election will be, speculation is rife that it will be held after Chinese New Year in February.

Until then, time is ticking for these political parties to win over the mostly fence-sitting youth to pick a side.

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