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Young voters make up 34 per cent of the voter population, and they represent the biggest proportion of fence sitters. FILE PIC

ACCORDING to the Election Commission, about five million young voters will cast their votes for the first time, constituting about 34 per cent of the total voters in Malaysia.

Both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan can already forecast which way seasoned voters are voting. But, what is baffling both coalitions is which way the five million first-time voters are going to vote. Young voters account for the biggest proportion of fence sitters and they are going to determine the outcome of the 14th General Election (GE14).

In the 2008 United States presidential election, Barack Obama won and became the first black president. His campaign strategy was aimed at young Americans and it drove more than 12 million young people to vote for him.

However, during Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency in 2016, there was less enthusiasm among young voters, resulting in her loss to Donald Trump. Clinton received only 55 per cent support from young voters, while Obama received 60 per cent eight years before.

So, how are the young voters in Malaysia going to vote this time? Will they vote according to their family’s political inclination, or will they be driven by peer pressure and social media influence?

As a first-time young voter, I haven’t actually decided yet; and I am not alone. Most young voters, including my peers, want to see what each party is offering to what we care about the most. And, what we care about the most is the future. We care about whether we can get a good job after graduating, whether we can afford to own a house, and yet still have extra cash for investments and family getaways. And, we care about problems faced by our generation today.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said: “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with”, and, if the people closest to us are inclined to one side, chances are we will be too.”

I recently came across Barisan Nasional’s National Transformation 2050 (TN50), a plan that takes into account the opinions of my generation on what we want for the future. Seems like a good strategy on their part; working on the future. That’s probably why lately Barisan Nasional has been gaining traction among young people.

For example, in the Sungai Besar by-election in 2016, support from young Chinese voters rose to 38 per cent from 15 per cent in the 13th General Election — a 23 per cent increase. Similarly, in the Kuala Kangsar by-election the same year, there was a shift in the voting trend among young Malays which resulted in an 18 per cent increase in votes for Barisan Nasional.

Also, in elections at 20 public universities in the past two years, there was a surprising shift towards the pro-government group, when they won almost all the seats which were previously dominated by the pro-opposition supporters.

On the other side, it seems that Pakatan is focusing more on the past and its legacy instead of the future by appointing a 93-year-old as a candidate for prime minister. Young voters may have a little problem with that; the problems today are not the same as 20 to 30 years ago.

In a speech recently, Isham Jalil, president of Sukarelawan Malay-sia, said: “The future belongs to the young generation. They are the biggest stakeholders of the time. Let us not repeat past mistakes and be dictated by past habits. We know old habits die hard. Let old mistakes be replaced by new improvements.”

As an observer from my generation, I think this time around, Barisan Nasional will fare better than Pakatan among young voters.

The writer is a graduate from
Curtin University, Australia,

hopes that first-time
voters like her will vote wisely

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