Asian Insider

Wooing Malaysia’s young voters

More than four million youths, representing a-fifth of the electorate, will be voting for the first time at Malaysia’s next general election. Asian Insider examines where their loyalties lie and if they could swing the outcome.

Game-changing youth vote spurs new strategies for Malaysia election

Six years ago, a bunch of students decided over Skype calls to campaign “for fun” to get the voting age in Malaysia lowered from 21 to 18.

The “Undi 18” (Vote 18) campaign, which started with petitions, forums and lobbying on social media and with politicians, soon gained traction, especially after the change of government in 2018 as Pakatan Harapan (PH) had taken up the reform as part of its election manifesto.

In 2019, a constitutional amendment required to lower the voting age gained unanimous support in Parliament, paving the way for one of the most significant changes in Malaysia’s democracy.


We want better jobs and clean leaders: Malaysia’s rural youth

In the sleepy conservative Malay-Muslim belt of Kelantan and Terengganu, first-time youth voters are looking for better job opportunities and wages, better infrastructure development and clean water.

Scarred by the embarrassment of having disgraced ex-premier Najib Razak being jailed for graft and a slew of other politicians slapped with corruption charges, many young voters also said having clean politicians is important to them, as are issues concerning the economy and the rising cost of living.

“I want a leader who is responsible, can lead, doesn’t just think of himself, doesn’t just think of his own pocket,” Mr Muhammad Rahimi Sidek Hamat, 21, told The Straits Times.


Cash is not king for Malaysia’s urban youth

Malaysia’s urban youth will not be appeased by cash handouts, and instead plan to vote for a political party that can deal with corruption, higher costs of living and the weaker ringgit, according to a street poll done in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor by The Straits Times.

Adopting a big-picture perspective, respondents said factors affecting Malaysia’s economic development, as well as its affirmative action policies, would determine their choice of party in the Nov 19 general election.

“Cash handouts are not good enough, and it’s too little as our inflation rate is… high,” said first-time voter Joash Tan, 20, who studies at the Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU).


If Perak’s political leaders are not careful, its minority youth may vote with their feet

If political leaders in Perak do not heed the needs of the state’s minority youth, they not only risk losing their votes in the coming general election, but also their presence in the state to greener pastures in other cities or countries.

Ethnic minorities feature prominently in Perak. The Chinese made up 27.5 per cent while Indians were at around 11 per cent, according to a 2020 census. The Bumiputera majority made up 57.6 per cent.

Some of these minority youths are already looking beyond the borders of state capital Ipoh for better-paying jobs.


Malaysia GE2022: Will it return a strong majority government?

Malaysia’s political landscape has been marked by shifting allegiances since the last election in 2018. Can the Nov 19 polls restore a strong majority government?


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