Will younger candidates pull in the youth vote?

WILL fielding young candidates help political parties snare the youth vote?

No, said a seasoned political analyst, who argued that the country’s younger voters are not interested in a candidate’s age but what he or she could offer.

Yes, said PKR and DAP, which pointed out that younger candidates were giant-slayers in the last two elections because they managed to galvanise the youth to bring down more established candidates.

For instance, in 2008, Liew Chin Tong beat then Gerakan secretary-general Chia Kwang Chye to win the Bukit Bendera seat while PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar defeated Wanita Umno giant Shahrizat Abdul Jalil in Lembah Pantai.

Political analyst Hisommudin Bakar from the Ilham Centre, however, said young voters are more interested in knowing what political parties could offer them in the future.

“I don’t see the correlation of putting young candidates to attract voters. It is not that simple,” he told The Malaysian Insight. 

Political parties should drive home what they are offering youth instead of trying to attract support with young candidates, Hisommudin said.

They should also be pitching better opportunities for youth, he said. 

“In the current gloomy economic outlook, they have to migrate to Australia and South Korea for example, to earn a better living.

“They are the group that is facing greater economic pressures and, therefore, they are ready for a change.”

Victory or defeat of a young candidate depends on the area he or she is contesting, either in an urban or rural seat.

For example, opposition bloc Pakatan Harapan’s young candidates will have no problems if they are to contest in the city or the suburbs because voters there are open to change.  

“However, in rural areas, voters are a little sceptical about the agenda of change promised by PH and are more inclined to choose a party instead of a candidate,” he said, pointing out that this is the voter sentiment spotted by Ilham Centre through several field studies.

“At the urban, mid-urban or mostly urban areas, they do not have any problems on the aspects of age or sex as long as the change of pushing Barisan Nasional’s regime takes precedence. And this gives a positive impact for PH.”

PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar defeated Wanita Umno giant Shahrizat Abdul Jalil in Lembah Pantai in 2008 on the back of strong youth support, says her party. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 12, 2018.

Influential voice

However, PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said it isn’t 100% accurate that younger candidates have difficulties penetrating rural areas.

They may not win but they have galvanised the young to come out and help reduce the majorities of their older rivals, he said.

He highlighted two of PKR’s young candidates during GE13 – Murni Hidayah Anuar at the Paya Besar seat in Pahang and Raymond Ahuar for the Nabawan seat in Pensiangan, Sabah – who reduced the majority of BN’s victories.

Raymond lost by 325 votes.  

Based on this confidence, he said, PKR will continue to showcase new faces in the 14th general election, just like what they did for the previous two general elections. 

“Youths should be given the opportunity and space in politics.”

Nik Nazmi was a young candidate fielded by PKR in 2008 and has been the Seri Setia assemblyman for the last two terms. 

DAP has most young candidates

Hisommudin said DAP is a party in PH that has been consistent in promoting young candidates because their supporters are strongly against BN.

The trend among non-Malay voters, especially Chinese, is to vote opposition.

“The chances are definitely high as the voters are anti-establishment. The young candidate benefits from this.”

Last August, The Malaysian Insight reported that DAP was considering putting their veteran leaders to contest in the tough seats and to give the seats where they have firm supporters to new faces. 

Political analyst Hisommudin Bakar says rural voters are a little sceptical about the agenda of change promised by Pakatan Harapan and are more inclined to choose a party instead of a candidate. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 12, 2018.

Hisommudin also observed that except for Amanah, PKR and Bersatu can try and field fresh young faces in GE14.

“The space for new faces in Amanah is limited because Amanah has the least seats and they have to prioritise veteran leaders.”

Amanah is only contesting in 27 parliamentary seats in the peninsula after the seat allocation among the parties in PH was confirmed last weekend. 

Kluang MP Liew from DAP believed that the opposition bloc this time will showcase many young faces, just like GE2008, and will bring about a new line-up of leadership for Malaysia. 

“This election is like GE12, at that time, my friends and I were contesting against candidates who were the same age as our dads,” said Liew who won in Bukit Bendera during that general election.

He beat Chia by 16,112 votes and recalls how Nurul Izzah also defeated Shahrizat by 2,895 votes to land the Lembah Pantai seat.

Liew did not defend Bukit Bendera but instead under a plan to capture more seats in Johor, moved to the Kluang parliamentary seat in the 13th general election to defeat veteran MCA vice-president Hou Kok Chung.

He said it is important because the pairing of youth and veterans will ensure that PH gets full support from all layers of voters.

“We have to be mindful that this election will not only change the government, but the regime will be brought down. It has never happened in history, this would be the first.” – January 12, 2018.