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  • Writer's pictureBait Al-Amanah

Youth vote a game changer? Not really, says analyst

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

*This article is originally published on Free Malaysia Today.

PETALING JAYA: An analyst has voiced disagreement with pundits who see the addition of 750,000 new voters in the Johor polls as a harbinger of change.

Shahrill Sabarudin, a fellow at the research institute Bait Al Amanah, told FMT he didn’t believe there would be much of a change in the game of politics just because many of the new voters would be below the age of 21 and were often thought to differ from older voters in their political views.

He noted that a significant portion of the new voters were automatically registered and said this showed that many, particularly those were qualified to vote in the 2018 general election, were indifferent to the electoral process.

“Why would this state election be any more exciting to them?” he said.

“Others are ingrained with the value system in which they grow up, implying that they will respond to identity and ideology politics.”

The Johor polls will be the first election since the introduction of Undi18 and automatic voter registration, which will add 5.8 million voters to the electorate nationwide.

Shahrill said the new voters in Johor were not distributed equally across the 56 state constituencies, with more than half of them concentrated in just 13 urban and semi-urban seats won decisively by Pakatan Harapan in 2018.

However, he said the inclusion of young voters would affect political discourse, resulting in a shift away from ethno-religious and sentimental narratives.

“Youths tend to have a better understanding of pressing issues, such as environmentalism, urban poverty, socio-economics, education policy, housing, and what reforms need addressing.

“This will put pressure on political parties to provide a far more sophisticated answer to the plight of the youth and focus on delivering better policies.”

He also said there would be some shift to the digital domain in the way parties engage with voters. He noted that Muda had changed the political donation process by crowdfunding online.

“Undi18 was a movement that ignited a lot of youth political activism,” he said. “What will be interesting to see in this election is whether the energy, passion, determination and dedication shown on the streets will be channelled into the political process.”

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