Youths have long been called the “kingmakers” of Malaysian elections as they make up a considerable segment of eligible voters and are able to make or break an electoral outcome with their votes.
Unfortunately, politics has never been a topic of interest among Malaysian youths, and this is rather evident as most don’t know how the electoral system works, let alone the inner workings of the government.
WeirdKaya recently sat down with two politicians to discuss about why Malaysians youths need to care about politics and the steps they can take to change the political scene for the better.
Thank you for joining the interview. Could you give a brief introduction about yourself?
Chong: Hi, I’m YB Chong Zhemin and I’ll be contesting for the Kampar parliamentary seat in GE15.
Koo: My name is Koo Haai Yen, and I’ve served as ex-councillor for Majlis Daerah Kampar as well as YB Chong’s special officer for four-and-a-half years. Before I ventured into politics, I worked at a semiconductor plant in Ipoh for 18 years. I’ll be contesting for the Keranji state seat.
Based on your observation as a politician, what are some of the reasons youths are disinterested in politics?
Chong: One of the reasons I can think of is due to the fact that they see the same old faces over and over, which discourages them in return. Another would be that they don’t see the point of getting involved in politics as they feel they cannot change anything with their vote.
Koo: Most of the young voters are 18 and above, an age where they’ve just gotten out of high school. At this point in time, they’re are more concerned about getting into university or landing a job. As such, politics isn’t their main priority and they often believe that whatever political changes that occur, their lives still go on as usual.
Youths often have this perception that they need to have political experience to join a political party. Is this true?
Chong: Not at all. For the political party that I’m representing, you can join at the age of 17, with the only requirements being that you are a Malaysian citizen and not bankrupt. Training will also be provided for those who are interested to join as volunteers.
With UNDI18 now in effect, how will young voters affect Malaysia’s political landscape beyond GE15?
Chong: Aside from 18-year-old voters, we also need to take into account the new voters who were recently added into the electoral roll. According to statistics, the number of new voters is 6.3 million, which is around 30% of total Malaysian voters (21.1 million).
This 30% is your X-factor. How will they vote, who will they vote for…are they going to vote the same way as older Malaysians? But based on what I’ve seen in previous elections, most young voters tend to be anti-establishment.
As to whether positive changes will come this GE15, it all depends on whether this 30% will come out and vote for competent leaders.
Why should Malaysian youths be concerned about politics?
Koo: The future of Malaysia doesn’t just belong to their parents; it also belongs to them. If they don’t step out and vote in a good government, the next generation will have to inherit the issues and problems existing now. The road is still long for them and there’s no better time to make a decision than now.
Chong: Even if you don’t care about politics, it’s still going to affect you one way or another. Say if you’re one that doesn’t read the newspapers or listen to political news on the radio, the policies that those in power make are going to make an impact. If they (Malaysian youths) can understand this concept, they will see the importance of being politically aware and voting.
What are the steps Malaysian youths can take in increasing their political knowledge?
Chong: They can start by following their MP and ADUN (state assemblyperson) on social media, join them in the activities organised by them and see what they have to say. Another way is to listen to online ceramahs as there are plenty of them.
Koo: Just like what YB Chong said, they need to do their own “homework” into their local politicians and read the news. If they don’t want to read long statements, they can opt for videos related to politics.
Special thanks to YB Chong and Ms Koo for being part of the interview.