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Young voters, the wild card in GE15

While it is still difficult to predict how this group will vote, the impact they could have should not be underestimated, an analyst says.

Teoh Yee Shen
2 minute read
Young voters queue to cast their ballots at the Johor state election in March.
Young voters queue to cast their ballots at the Johor state election in March.

A political analyst has described the youth vote as a wild card ahead of the widely anticipated general election, to be held within weeks with the addition of nearly seven million new voters automatically registered to cast their ballots this time around. 

MalaysiaNow previously reported that of the 6.9 million new voters, only 16% were in the 18-20 age bracket targeted under the Undi 18 movement. 

However, Hisommudin Bakar of electoral think tank Ilham Centre said young voters would still make up a significant proportion of those eligible to vote in GE15. 

"Even though the 18- to 20-year-old segment of voters is only on average 6%, if this is combined with the 42% average of voters aged 21 to 39, the total figure of young voters would be 48%," he said. 

This, he said, would be enough to have a huge impact on the results if they chose to make a majority decision on which party would march into Putrajaya. 

The automatic registration of voters came into effect late last year, following the unanimous passing of a bill to lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18, a move linked to political parties hoping to ride on support from younger Malaysians by championing issues close to the group.

Where individuals previously had to sign up to vote, automatic registration now ensures that every citizen over the age of 18 can automatically cast their ballots.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, though, Hisommudin said those in the 18-20 age bracket were "fragile", and that it was difficult to predict which party they would support. 

Citing research conducted by his think tank, he said the majority of voters in this category had less exposure to political matters.

Perak Youth Assembly member Yeap Thiam Hoong meanwhile said that the youth were more familiar with the internet and social media. 

Yeap, a programme leader in media studies at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, said that in order to gain their attention, election candidates should focus on making their strategies known online. 

"From my personal experience, I occasionally discuss elections with my students, and how they need to cast their votes," he said. 

"But their impression is, it's a holiday – they just want to sleep through the day." 

He added that matters of a national scale such as corruption were not a major concern for young people. 

"They are more worried about their education and career, and owning their first house." 

Yeap's remarks echoed those of Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the youth minister under the Pakatan Harapan administration who had strongly promoted the Undi 18 movement. 

"Youths want career, education and public transport issues to be the focus," Syed Saddiq said. 

"Those aged 18 to 20 will be first-time voters – combined with those in the 21-25 age bracket, this is a huge number." 

Hisommudin meanwhile said that "every single vote counts". 

"If they participate actively, votes from this group could contribute to an important percentage for any party." 

Yeap agreed. "We always believe in the philosophy behind elections," he added. 

"Don't underestimate your personal vote."