Monday, April 29, 2013

Will young voters be kingmakers?

About three million new voters have registered for the 13th general election, of whom 60 percent are aged below 30 years and these people make up a formidable 25 percent of the electoral roll.

These new, young voters are seen as the kingmakers who will determine whether BN will continue its rule for another five years - or whether Malaysians will see a new federal government, for the first time in the country's 56-year history.

This is perhaps why both BN and Pakatan Rakyat have come up with a slew of youth-friendly policies to woo the young voters, who are generally perceived to be politically apathetic and fence sitters.

NONEHowever, compared with the pre-2008 period, Malaysiakini finds many of these young people, especially first-time voters, stepping forward to exercise their right to vote, for they seem hungry for change.

Marketing student Chong Kai Siang (left), 21, is not happy with the state of the nation's economy and believes that it can be improved, like how Penang, run by Pakatan, has achieved with the state economy.

"I think Penang is very successful. There is a profit every year... I want a change, that’s why I registered as a voter," Chong said.

Sharing Chong's sentiment on voting for change is 24-year-old Universiti Malaya student Hafizan Ali.

"We are already developed in terms of infrastructure, but not our mentality, which also has to change," said Hafizan, adding that he values virtuous leaders who act for the people.

NONECall centre agent Nurul Atikah Abdul Aziz (right), 23, agrees with Hafizan that leaders need to be people-orientated. This was her response when asked what qualities she felt election candidates should have.

"If they are in charge of an area, they should make sure other areas are taken care of equally," said Nurul Atikah, who declared herself to be a staunch PAS supporter.

Vote for change

The Kelantan lass said encouragement from her parents prompted her to "take responsibility to vote to contribute to a change".

NONELaw graduate Gayathri Jayakumar, 22, attributed her legal studies to be the main motivation to vote and she is literally vibrating with excitement at the prospect of being a first-time voter in the May 5 general election.

"I am very excited. I’m the third girl in my family and the first one to register as a voter. I’m the only child who is registered," Gayathri (left) said with pride. 

However, some youths spoken to at random were not as passionate about being registered as first-time voters.

Graphic designer Pern Tan Sze Mun, 23, registered out of fear of being blacklisted if she did not, but changed her view when she realised that Malaysia could be much better place, especially in the area of education.

NONE"I feel sorry for my juniors. I'm not really happy," Tan (left) said about the government's decision to reverse the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English policy.

Though he says he will be voting only for the experience, Vincent Paul Jordan Rodriquez, 25, was not at all hesitant about declaring his vote for Pakatan.

"I always supported (PKR de facto leader) Anwar Ibrahim, for he is a real survivor. He is my idol. All these years of negative accusations and he survived it all," Gincent Paul said, very brazenly.

As an English tutor in a local university, he said, he was very concerned about the state of education in Malaysia.

"A lot of Malaysian parents are sending their children to international schools because progress in education is so slow, and even backward in government schools," Vincent Paul said, adding that the Education Ministry needed to take action to improve the situation.

'I was laid back initially...'

Another English teacher, Yong Yui Jien, 23, agreed with Vincent on education in Malaysia, but he hoped that the situation would improve as the New Education Blueprint, which was released on Sept 11, 2012, has received positive feedback.

Asked about her motivation to vote, Yong admitted that she initially thought her one vote could not change anything.

"I was laid back initially, but then a friend said if I thought so, what would happen if everyone thought the that way?"

NONEFull-time journalist Adrian Lai Sher Wynn, 24, felt the same way about voting until his editor at the organisation he intern inspired him to register as a voter.

Lai (right) considers his vote a "check and balance", more so if the establishment was not up to par.

"I don't want the ruling government to be too comfortable," he said, and made it clear he would not align himself with either coalition.

In contrast, physiotherapy student Lohshini Manickavasagam, 22, opined that it was high time for a change of government in Malaysia.

"I appreciate all that has been given, but let's see what the opposition can do for us now," Lohshini said.

She also demanded that all election candidates should walk their talk.

"You tell us something before the election and we make you win. Now, prove it to us," Lohshini added.

NANDINI BALAKRISHNAN and LEANNE TAN are students, who were interns with Malaysiakini

~ Malaysiakini

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