Commentary Politics

Political parties have failed again to win over the young


Written by Aziz Hassan

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

A RECENT news report revealed that over three million young Malaysians eligible to vote have not registered and while they can still do so to eventually allow them to vote in the 14th general elections due latest by mid-year, many appear to be nonchalant and adopt a couldn’t care less attitude.

Those who read the findings of a survey that were released last September and another a few months later would be the least surprised that apathy abounds where these youths are concerned.

The surveys showed that most of these young people were not interested in politics and were hardly impressed with both sides. They don’t want the Barisan Nasional to continue governing while also seeing little that was positive about the opposition.

The main reason in the disinterest appeared to be on issues of integrity and the lack of good governance and credibility, with most politicians seen as not having policies or ideologies that took care of the wider interests of the people and as people who spent more time on trivia and trading insults at each other. There was also this strong belief that their votes would not change anything.

Although these findings were from recent times, those familiar with the youths who started the reformasi movement in 1998 can tell you that despite their political activism, most didn’t know enough about the overall political environment and issues, with their focus being mainly on one man.

There was a lot of talk then that these youths would be the force to be reckoned with come the next elections, a group that would drastically alter the political landscape through their votes. No doubt the opposition gained some grounds in the 1999 elections but the expected tsunami by the young did not happen, the reason being that most were either not registered to vote or simply decided that they were not inspired to go to the polling stations. A post-mortem on voting trends from subsequent general elections tended to support this position.

The age groups of the millennials under these surveys varied, with one putting them at between 18 years and 35, another between 21 and 30 and yet another between 21 and 35 and this means that the reformasi generation is excluded because most of them would now be either in their late 30s or early 40s.

What we can’t tell for sure is if the politicians have been reading these findings and doing something to make them relevant to the young but media reports on what they say or talk about to people indicate that they haven’t been paying much attention there.

Where GE14 is concerned, Pakatan Harapan, the main opposition group in Peninsular Malaysia, has officially unveiled its 13-point manifesto that covers the usual points on taxes, cost of living, economic imbalance and the people’s rights. A lot of it is rhetorical, nothing new and not expected to shake the country.

The most significant item is on the appointments of those to head critical institutions like the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Police, anti-corruption agency and Judiciary, to make Parliament the body that nominates the appointees.

That it has taken the opposition so long to realise the significance of making Parliament the institution that decides on these other critical institutions is beyond belief. It is something I have been writing for some years now at Facebook, in commentaries at this portal and at various chat groups. Incidentally this is also something that has finally captured the imagination of retired senior civil servants of the liberal kind – years after they left service.

The problem with Pakatan is that in moving forward it doesn’t seem to speak with one voice. The one made public at its national convention in early January mentions about doing away with the Goods and Services Tax, which is something not everyone of Pakatan’s leaders considers to be such a problematic tax.

It must be remembered that it was only at the end of last October that the group’s chairman Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad unveiled a five-point manifesto. How sure is anyone that there won’t be another U-turn on such a critical piece of declaration?






About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.