Some Malay youth see politics as “old people’s business”, an opinion aired in the wake of a study by independent pollster Merdeka Center showing that only 40% of the group would turn out to vote if the 15th general election (GE15) is held in the near future.
Sitting at a fast food restaurant in the city, they said politics in Malaysia was only for “the old”, adding that the voice of the youth had in any case been sidelined.
Wan Ahhyat, 19, said the approach taken by many politicians was also outdated and unsuited to the lifestyle of the younger generation.
Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said even some of the calls made by younger leaders were out of step with the priorities of the youth.
He gave the example of DAP’s Sheikh Umar Bagharib Ali who recently urged the people to gather in protest of the rising cost of living.
He said a new approach is needed as these days, the youth spend most of their time fixed to their screens.
“It’s funny and a waste of time and money,” he said of the call for mass rallies.
“I guarantee no one young will turn out. If we attend a protest, we need to take leave from work. This means that we don’t earn anything and our hardships will only increase.
“It would be a different story if they paid us to go. Then the streets would be filled with youth protesting.”
Merdeka Center had said that the 40% figure for youth who would turn out to vote was low as the group comprises about 58% of the electorate as a whole.
It also found that only 33% of Malay youth were interested in politics, with trust in government administration at about 69%.
The same trend appears to play out on social media, with very few from the group actively engaging in conversations about politics and current affairs.
This is also in line with Merdeka Center’s findings on internet use among Malay youth, which revealed that they use the internet for entertainment purposes (32%), communication (32%) and study-related matters (17%).
Information and news meanwhile stood at only 16% – an irony given that many social media users have been utilising the space to speak out about issues including the rising cost of living under the administration of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Chats with a number of students from Universiti Putra Malaysia found many expressing confusion about politicians whom they said had yet to forge a clear path for the country after more than six decades of independence.
They blamed politicians for being fickle in a reference to the culture of party-hopping behind the rise and fall of government leaderships.
“That’s why I have no interest in politics,” university student Nur Zulaika Abd Rauf said.
“I might not bother voting because it’s a waste of time.”
Nur Zulaika and her friends are aware of the importance of politics in determining whether the country progresses under a fair and orderly system.
But until there is an end to the practice of party-hopping, they intend to keep well away.
At Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, another student named Aswad said he was still waiting for a politician who would truly represent the youth.
“I used to follow Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman,” he said.
“But now, he seems to be turning into someone from the court cluster. So forget about politics – I’m concentrating on my studies for now.”
Speak with the youth
Back at the fast food joint, Wan Ahhyat and his friends say politicians should hold dialogue sessions with the youth to discuss current issues and problems like the cost of living.
“If they’re brave enough to do that, we won’t mind going without our salary for the day,” he said.
“They might call us kids, but not all kids can be made a fool of.”
Wan Ahhyat and his friends finished secondary school two years ago – right before the onset of Covid-19 in the country.
Unable to afford college or university, they struggled to find work amid the pandemic restrictions.
Wan Ahhyat suggested that the leaders of youth wings hold dialogues to tackle issues such as inflation and how to strengthen the gig economy, to which many have turned in order to earn a living.
“There must be many out there who are in the same boat as we are,” he said.
“Call us and hear us out. Whether or not they want to listen, that is the question.”