While youth may give candidates an edge in elections, it is not the deciding factor for voters in choosing their elected representatives, analysts say as the country looks to embrace a drop in minimum voting age with the implementation of Undi 18.
Amid the continuing debate over the role of youth in politics, Oh Ei Sun, a political analyst from the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said voters’ priorities in choosing their representatives also differ based on demographic lines.
While rural voters might place more emphasis on issues surrounding infrastructure development issues that would have a direct impact on their lives, city folk in general have the socio-economic security to consider larger issues such as administration and integrity, he said.
“Of course, young voters in city areas might be attracted to young candidates but this does not mean that they will push aside their ideologies,” he told MalaysiaNow.
Undi 18, the lowering of the minimum voting age from 21 to 18, will be implemented by the end of the year along with automatic voter registration.
Mujibu Abd Muis of UiTM said the degree to which voters accept young candidates also depends on the area under contest as candidacy is closely tied to the status of the political party in question.
He said the candidacy of representatives should take into account sociological aspects and the political culture of a locality.
“For example in the upcoming Sarawak state election, many of the 349 candidates are in their 50s and 60s.
“In this context, the aspects of stability and maturity, personality and confidence are given more attention than youth,” he said, describing other factors such as background, education and age as bonus factors.
Oh meanwhile said many voters still decide on their candidates based on the party logo which they see as a symbol of the party’s ideological struggle.
“Young candidates who represent parties with ideologies that are out of sync with those of the voters will lose while veteran candidates whose party ideologies are accepted will be re-elected,” he said.
He gave the example of Muda, which he said has yet to strike confidence in the progressive, liberal section of voters which is its target demographic.
“There are concerns that if it succeeds in the general election to come, it might not be able to work with those who are more regressive and conservative in order to form a ruling coalition,” he said.
“This is one of the perceptions that Muda needs to overcome to successfully navigate the world of politics.”
When asked if the time had come for the younger generation to step up in their political parties, Oh said the transition to the new generation was inevitable.
However, he said the question was whether the shift would make or break the parties in question.
“If it relies on an oligarchy, it is only a matter of time – especially in the face of an election defeat – before the younger politicians revolt, further weakening the party,” he said.
But if a party implements a generational shift in a systematic manner, it will result in a more united leadership which will be able to stand firm in the event of a political crisis, he added.
“Muda also needs to groom new leaders after Syed Saddiq,” he said, referring to the Muar MP.
Mujibu meanwhile said the youth need to become actively involved in field work or activities involving the people’s welfare before deciding to contest as an elected candidate.
“If they are only fielded because they are young and educated, it might not bring about much of a result,” he said.
“The people need to get to know the person better so they can be confident that he or she is qualified to speak on their behalf.”