Will young voters change Malaysia’s voting landscape?

There are analysts who are of the opinion that the Melaka voters are a discerning lot.

That they chose Barisan Nasional (BN) for stability, integrity, and accountability, and are confident that the coalition would fulfil all its pledges.

It would seem that Melaka voters had searched their souls and voted for the party that could ensure political stability.

Never mind that it was an Umno man who had, last year, tabled a motion of confidence to replace the Perak menteri besar from Bersatu with one of their own.

Several Umno MPs also engineered the collapse of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration, when 14 of them withdrew support. Ironic, since they had earlier conspired with Muhyiddin to bring down the Pakatan Harapan government, led by then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

That a host of BN leaders were facing corruption charges, or had been convicted of corrupt practices, apparently did not faze the Melaka voters.

They were willing to ignore the fact that these leaders had allegedly squandered public funds for personal gain and avoided from paying taxes.

And they are sold on the ‘Keluarga Malaysia‘ (Malaysian Family) concept that would supposedly bring them prosperity, unity and harmony with all and sundry, irrespective of race or religion.

This, despite the fact that Pas, a component of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration, is only focused on Malay-Muslim unity, with nary a concern for multi-racial co-existence.

The voters have searched their souls and found that BN/Umno is altruistic, only concerned with serving the people.

Even the presence of a convicted criminal in their midst did not recalibrate their moral values, or affect their sentiments.

For them, such leaders can do no wrong, an attitude conditioned by the feudalistic mentality.

Analysts and the media coverage created the impression that the Melaka voters were an astute lot, who had considered the options available to them, before choosing the party to represent them.

Unfortunately, this was not the case, because for the past 60 years, the voting pattern had been guided by racial and religious sentiments. This time around, it was no different in Melaka, which is a Malay enclave, thus an Umno stronghold.

This racial/religious voting pattern was borne out by the placement of candidates based on the racial composition of the constituencies.

Malay candidates were fielded in Malay-majority constituencies, and Chinese candidates in Chinese-majority constituencies. The same for the Indians.

This had been going on since independence, so much so, that the Malays, Chinese and Indians have been conditioned to vote for their “own kind”.

This is further perpetuated by gerrymandering, splitting the constituencies to create Malay-majority constituencies, and lumping non-Malay voters in one large constituency.

There is some leeway, however, in racially mixed constituencies, where party affiliation takes precedence over racial, or religious considerations, as was the case when Pas members voted for DAP candidates when the party was in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition with PKR and DAP.

Both rural and urban Malay voters, even the so-called emancipated educated ones, succumbed to Umno’s fear mongering of Malays losing their rights, their religion challenged by liberal Malays and the agnostic non-Malays, and the monarchy being undermined. A vote for Umno promises to safeguard these so-called Malay rights, identities, and institutions, aside from getting the usual financial aid.

Umno politicians have used this age-old ruse to manipulate the people and condition them to respond to such racial and religious ‘stimuli’, thus creating a secure vote bank.

Likewise, the Chinese political parties have harped on chauvinistic sentiments, while those from Sabah and Sarawak use provincialism propaganda to promote an insular sentiment, and an adversarial attitude towards Peninsula Malaysia.

But the impending entry of eight million young voters, through the Undi 18 enactment, may change the voting landscape.

They may discard the racial, religious, chauvinistic, and provincial markers. However, one can be certain that the political parties would manipulate and court them to subscribe to their segregated and bigoted agenda.

Quite a few will succumb to these overtures, enticed by material benefits and positions.

Hopefully, enough idealistic youths will stand their ground and set in motion a new voting pattern that transcends racial, religious and chauvinistic constraints, for a better, quality representation.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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