The Big Read: With split in youth vote, will Malaysia politics see a new dawn post-GE or yesterday once more?

Looking ahead, one can also expect all parties to contest the social media space more keenly, taking a page from gains by PAS and PN during GE2022.

Undi18’s Ms Qyira said: “I think in this election, PN had gotten ahead of everyone else. If (parties) want to control the narrative, it’s about understanding the medium, and how they want to communicate their message.”

For instance, issues related to good governance and anti-corruption are positive messaging that can help a political party, but often there is not enough knowledge on how to capitalize on trends or different platforms to get young people to consume these messages.

Overall, the trends affecting the youth vote in GE2022 will be the ones that Malaysia will continue to face in the next few decades.

Professor James Chin from the Asian Studies department at the University of Tasmania said that the assumption that younger generations will tend to be more progressive cannot be applied to the Malaysian context.

“Why would you assume that the younger voters will be less racially or less religiously minded? The schools that they’ve been going to in the last 10 to 15 years have been the same, so there shouldn’t be any difference,” he said.

BRINGING THE COUNTRY TOGETHER

With an increasingly polarized future on the cards, it is more important than ever for political parties to work together and make compromises for the good of the country, said the observers.

NUS’ Dr. Serina said that while all parties may have different ideologies and goals, they should have a common baseline of wanting the best for the nation through transparency and good governance.

“The difference is how they intend to achieve their goals and whether they intend to pander to or inflame more intolerant and rigid supporters who only want to see one way of doing things,” she said.

She noted that in politics, be it in Malaysia or many other countries, it is common to see personalities emerge with the intent of gaining or holding on to power for personal gains, and this could get in the way of “larger, more benevolent goals” .

One thing that the voting patterns of the youth have shown is that they are willing to punish politicians — even established ones — whom they see as no longer serving the people’s interests.

For instance, 97-year-old political heavyweight and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad lost his seat at Langkawi, along with his electoral deposit in this GE.

Political analysts have said previously that voters were ready to move on from Dr. Mahathir’s heavy-handed approach to politics.

“The moral of the story (is that politicians) should work harder to improve the lot of the people and the economy, instead of holding out for their personal benefit,” said Dr. Serina.

“They should ideally make the compromises to ensure that they can continue to get voted in.”

Muar MP Syed Saddiq said that indeed, there needs to be an “institution mindset” rather than a “personality mindset” in order to move Malaysia politics forward.

“Once you empower institutions, treat the opposition fairly … I think all of these allow for the country to heal, because it shows that whoever is in government, Malaysia will still be on the right footing,” he said.

He added that there is also a need for both the opposition and the incumbent unity government to work together and steer Malaysia out of the economic uncertainty.

Agreeing with his fellow MP, Mr. Wan Fayhsal from PN said that his party, even as the opposition, can facilitate the transition to a more stable government.

“We would like to be a constructive opposition… We will come up with a good shadow Cabinet, focus on the issues that matter, so that we can be the check and balance,” he said.

While a unity government — comprising bedfellows with different dreams — is likely to be fraught with problems that may even threaten its stability, some of the young Malaysians interviewed still believe that it offers the nation a chance for a fresh start — a break from the one – party dominant system of yesteryears which they think had not served the people’s interests well.

Accountant Ethan Tan, 26, said that in the past when a single coalition — be it BN or PH — had formed the government, the outcomes had not been the best for the country.

“But this time, we can see two to three parties having a similar number of seats, so if (one party) does anything wrong, the other side can help to reveal what that party is doing,” said the voter from Ayer Hitam, Johor.

“I think this is the correct call for Malaysian democracy, where no one party has the majority.”

This story was originally published in TODAY.

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