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What next for the youth, post-GE15?

Some say their enthusiasm during the campaign period has turned into disillusionment.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
First-time voters wait for their turn to cast their ballots at a voting centre in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur, during the general election on Nov 19, 2022.
First-time voters wait for their turn to cast their ballots at a voting centre in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur, during the general election on Nov 19, 2022.

A handful of young voters who cast their ballots for the first time at the 15th general election (GE15) last year say they no longer believe in the political agenda for the youth announced by some parties during the campaign season. 

For them, the calls for an increase in political awareness among the youth appear no longer relevant as they say that the leaders who were vocal on such issues then are now silent. 

Akmal Hashim, a first-year dentistry student, said he had heard nothing about politics for the youth after going to cast his vote. 

He said this proved that the focus on the youth during the election campaign period was only to fish for votes. 

"One of the MPs even formed a party called Muda and put himself forth as a champion of the youth," Akmal said when met in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. 

"But since GE15, there has been nothing. He just plays on TikTok with his cat and his friends.

"What about all of the youth politics that he promoted?"

Jack Lim, a friend of Akmal's who was there with him, said his family did not often speak about politics. 

Lim, 19, said he became interested in the topic after coming across videos on social media about the ideas of the youth. 

But now, he said, nothing seemed to be happening. 

"Maybe we were fooled," he said, laughing. 

Because of this, he said, it came as no surprise when his friends dismissed youth politics as mere rhetoric. 

The youth vote became a focus for many at GE15 following the constitutional amendment to lower the minimum voting age and allow for automatic voter registration. 

This led to an increase of about six million voters from the previous general election in 2018. 

Those under the age of 40 currently make up the largest cohort of voters in the national election system. 

Former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, whose party Muda worked with Pakatan Harapan (PH) at GE15, had fought strongly for the implementation of the so-called Undi 18. 

However, the results of the election showed that many among the youth voted for Perikatan Nasional (PN) instead. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Syed Saddiq said he had pushed for Undi 18 in order to empower the youth regardless of political affiliation. 

"Since when was my mandate to push through Undi 18 for PH? Or PAS or Bersatu?" he said. 

"No, that's not for me. My mandate was to ensure its passage for the people and for the youth." 

The Muda president also said that institutional reforms could not be supported if they benefit only one party. 

In order to regain the support of the youth, he said, PH would need to continue defending their rights and ensuring their welfare. 

"When you lose the support of the younger generation, you have to learn why it was so," he said. 

"Not pressure the youth even more." 

A group of young food delivery riders said the youth no longer saw politicians as a factor for change in their future. 

They said they were more inclined towards entrepreneurs and social media influencers whom they claimed were more effective in bringing about change. 

"Syed Saddiq can say what he wants," they said. "If you look at TikTok, the youth of today support the influencers and entrepreneurs. 

"When people are in trouble, they act first. They give money and channel aid."

They also said that many of the youth supported PN because influencers such as cosmetics entrepreneur Wawa Zainal and her husband Aeril Zafrel openly advised them to do so.