Monday, March 15, 2010

Young voters veering towards non-partisanship

Young voters are deemed to be more open and mature in making their choices thanks to the emergence of new media. - Picture by Choo Choy May

More young voters will be seen to be non-partisan in the next general election, according to political observers. The current political trend is said to contribute to this scenario.

Besides that, with the availability of advance information technology and the emergence of the new media, the young generation no longer access information from the conventional media but are churning out information and forming their own opinions.

“They no longer have a classic belief in politics,” said Dr Abu Hassan Hasbullah when commenting on young voters and how they would vote in the 13th general election (GE).

The Media Studies senior lecturer at Universiti Malaya added: “Young voters now are more liberal and constructive. Besides, they do not weigh an issue based on political ideology

“They can just change their support or react to a situation any time.” Abu Hassan said the young generation are no longer holding on to politicians’ words or promises, but would instead evaluate how the parties concerned handle issues.

He referred to current issues which had become more complicated as the political stand made or views given, more often than not confused the public, such as on the “Allah” and oil royalty issues.

Abu Hassan’s opinion is in tandem with a survey conducted by the Federation of Peninsular Malay Students (GPMS) where 70 per cent of undergraduates or youths were found to be disinterested in politics, with 10 per cent being pro-government and 20 per cent choosing to be open.

The findings of the study were revealed by GPMS president Jais Abdul Karim during the “kerusi panas” (hot seat) programme over Bernama’s Radio24 on March 9.

Political observer Associate Professor Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia sees Malaysian politics as experiencing a political representation deficit since two years ago.

“The political parties are still grappling with finding political legitimacy to fulfil their promises since the political tsunami of March 2008,” he said.

This scenario has created a dilemma among the younger generation, of whether the politicians are only representing themselves or voicing the aspirations of the people they represent in their constituencies.

Sivamurugan referred to the current spectacle of party hopping involving Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leaders and members. The action by two Perak PKR assemblymen and one from the DAP to quit their party in February 2009 saw the DAP-PKR-PAS pact losing the state to Barisan Nasional (BN), and lately three PKR members of parliament quit PKR due to their frustrations with the leadership.

Sivamurugan said the absence of a clear structure in the political parties to provide the ascendancy passage for young leaders would also drive the young generation to be non-partisan.

“This is because the young leaders are the bridge or link to the young voters. Only the young leaders will understand the aspirations of their peers. Those who give more space to the young leaders will get the support of the young voters.”

It is estimated that seven million young voters will vote in the 13th GE and their support will determine the outcome, whether the victor will be BN or the DAP-PKR-PAS pact which now rules Kelantan, Kedah, Penang and Selangor.

Political analyst Dr Wan Abdul Rahman Wan Abdul Latiff said the young voters’ support would depend on factors such as demography and their level of education.

“The higher their educational level means they are more open and mature in making choices and will not get trapped by surrounding pressure.

“It also means the decline of heritage politics where if the father is with BN, the son or daughter will vote for BN and likewise for PAS if the father is a PAS member or supporter,” said the former Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia lecturer. — Bernama

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