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A Malay component or another 'youth' front – what PH needs for coming polls

Analysts are split on the extent to which youth-based party Muda would add value to the opposition pact at the general election to come.

Teoh Yee Shen
2 minute read
Young voters queue at a polling centre in Muar, Johor, during the state election on March 12.
Young voters queue at a polling centre in Muar, Johor, during the state election on March 12.

A political analyst has questioned the extent to which youth-based party Muda would add value to Pakatan Harapan (PH), following its announcement that it intends to join forces with the opposition pact at the 15th general election (GE15).

Mujibu Abd Muis of Universiti Teknologi Mara said Muda would have little relevance to PH apart from reducing chances of multi-cornered fights at the polls. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said the current PH component parties already had their own youth wings through which they could engage with young voters. 

"The youth wings of PH – PKR, Amanah, DAP and Upko – are credible enough to do the job for their respective parties," he said. 

He also said that Muda would benefit more from PH's established party machinery and network. 

"A critical Malay component would be better for PH than Muda," he said. 

James Chin of Australia’s University of Tasmania however differed, saying Muda would be PH's ticket to securing a significant chunk of the youth votes. 

Acknowledging that Muda had not garnered significant numbers at the most recent state election in Johor, he said it had nonetheless gained a third of the support from those aged 18 to 20. 

"If you are the opposition, you want as many votes as possible," he added. 

With the implementation of Undi 18 or the lowering of the minimum voting age from 21 to 18 last year, an additional 5.8 million people are now eligible to vote, 1.2 million of whom are between 18 and 20 years old. 

Chin said a third of the support of those in this age bracket would be a significant amount for PH, describing this as Muda's value proposition in seeking to join the coalition. 

If the ambiance of GE15 was "hot", he said, perhaps 65% to 70% of youth voters would turn out to cast their ballots. 

At the Johor election, Muda won one of the seven state seats it contested. 

It clashed with PKR in the seat of Larkin but stayed out of the two state seats in the parliamentary constituency of Muar – Maharani and Sungai Balang.

Given that Muda's founder, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, is the MP for Muar, this raised questions on how the party could prove itself to woo voters in future elections. 

Mujibu said voters who are both new and young would be simultaneously critical and unpredictable at the ballot box. 

"New and young voters won't necessarily vote for Muda or young candidates," he said.

While parties that suit the needs of the youth would have a better chance of winning, he added, voting patterns would depend on the issues at stake as well as perceptions during the election itself. 

Chin however said that to implement pro-youth policies, Muda would first have to gain power. 

"How to prove it is a chicken and egg question. To get elected, you have to go through an election. If they can’t win, they can’t deliver," he said.