DURING the 2018 General Election (GE14), the country’s youth were the kingmakers.
And now, with those below 40 years old accounting for 41% of the electorate, politicians who hope to maintain control of the government must fulfill the needs of an increasingly frustrated youth block, particularly in light of recent political turmoil.
Some students Sunday Star spoke to before yesterday’s royal decision on a new prime minister expressed hopes for fresh elections, despite the high cost they would incur – roughly estimated to be around RM700mil to RM800mil.
Vishal Sidhu, 21, is of this view: “Trust has been broken, hopes have been shattered. Moving forward, it is definitely going to make it harder for the youth to care or trust politicians or political parties when they realise the extent to which politicians are capable of prioritising their own interests and rise to power instead of carrying out their mandate as promised, ” says Vishal, who studies at a public university.
Nevertheless, Vishal points out that Malaysia is still peaceful despite the political crisis and sees this as an opportunity for the public to better question and challenge bad practices.
Grace Anne, 18, says that many of her peers are concerned about the messy state of Malaysian politics at present.
“We have just got out of school and are planning for jobs and the future ahead of us. Maybe this political situation could affect that and my friends are worried, ” she says.
Political Science student Mohammad Zafran, 23, says: “This is a very weird situation where there appears to be attempts to create a backdoor government and also cracks within the governing coalition.
Youth, especially university students, are aware of ongoing changes as they regularly engage in debates on and discussions of current issues, says the public university student.
“What is happening right now is that the youth are starting to think that their mandate is being taken for granted, ” he says.
Also commenting before yesterday’s decision, Mohammad Zafran feels the choice of who governs should be left to the people through elections.
In contrast to Mohammad Zahran, 23-year-old law student Qiao Hui disagrees with a new election.
“The estimated cost is too high and I feel that Malaysia is just not ready for it, ” says Qiao Hui, who is currently studying in Britain and communicated via email.
She further adds that youths who are keeping up with political developments feel frustrated and helpless about the current situation.
“This is because there’s nothing much we can do other than watch the older politicians fight over power, ” she explains.
“The youths who had never been interested in politics would feel that the political scene is even more untouchable now. I think some youths would choose to opt out of voting in the next elections just because it feels like there’s no point to it, ” she says.
The youth tend to prioritise bread and butter issues, and focus on the merits of individual politicians, says youth empowerment movement Undi18.
“Young people tend to look past racial lines and vote based on economic issues. In polls done by Invoke Malaysia before the previous general election, they discovered that youth didn’t rank ministers or politicians by their race but by the work that they did, ” says co-founder Qyira Yusri.
Invoke Malaysia is a data analytics and digital marketing agency run by former PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli.
“I think we are tired of the unnecessary drama that some politicians have taken upon themselves to play. I’d say the immediate reaction (to recent political developments) is probably a mixture of confusion and frustration.”
Qyira is confident that if a new election takes place, young people will be able to look beyond politics and focus on policies.
“The reality is, the effects of the games that politicians play don’t necessarily trickle down to the rakyat, and as youths are the biggest block of voters – we are the biggest beneficiary group of economic policies, ” she adds.
Malaysian youths care about policies that affect them directly, Qyira stresses.
“I think issues such as petrol subsidies, university autonomy and various other economic policies will be what they’re evaluating political parties on, ” she adds. – DM