GE15: Most youths will vote for clean, credible candidates

The 15th General Election will see youths aged 18 and above making their debut as voters.

Over five million youths are eligible and they will have an impact on the outcome of the election.

However, it is difficult to predict their voting trends and gauge their sentiments regarding the current social, political, and economic situation, as there are no previous data to that effect.

The youths comprise university or college students, working-class youths in government and private sectors, and those who are self-employed, and the unemployed.

Each category is differentiated according to socio-economic, education, and cultural background, and their mental disposition, not to mention the urban and rural dispersion.

Before the advent of social media, the youths were mainly exposed to mainstream English and Malay print, and electronic media, many of which peddled official government information.

Even though most youths do not habitually read the newspapers or watch the evening news, they are indirectly impacted by the social/cultural pro-government environment, especially in the Malay heartland.

Even university students are not politically inclined as the University and University College Act forbids them from being involved in politics.

Students are told to just concentrate on their studies and not be involved in partisan politics. Over the years, even the students’ representative elections were allegedly rigged, ostensibly to favour those approved by the pro-government university administration.

But with the advent of the internet that facilitated the emergence of social media platforms – which for the most part, are free of censorship – the youths could freely access information from around the world.

Local news, other than by official government outlets, were freely available. As a result, the government no longer had a monopoly over the dissemination of news. Youths are now able to get a wider spectrum of both prejudiced, and unbiased views.

Like it or not, the explosion of such diverse sources of information, influenced and shaped the perception and opinions of the youths on social, political, and religious matters.

The youths would evaluate this information to arrive at an opinion that would conform to their ethical and moral values.

At the same time, there is a sizeable number of youths who are focused on matters that are consonant with a lifestyle of fun and frivolity, unconcerned with the socio-political issues and happenings that affect the nation and its people.

Nevertheless, with the availability of various social media platforms and online newspapers, the youths would be exposed, to some degree, to what is going on in the country, especially with regard to what the government and the opposition have been doing to address poverty, our declining purchasing power, and unemployment, among other things, which impact us all, irrespective of age.

Our youths would have been aware of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fiasco involving Malaysia’s former prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, that caused irreparable damage to the economy and forcing the next generation to pay for one man’s greed and avarice.

They must also be aware of the billions of ringgit spent on military procurement programmes characterised by overspending, and a lack of oversight and transparency, such as the over-budget and overdue Littoral Combat Ship project, and the self-propelled howitzer (SPH) programme that did not go through an open tender process.

Then, there are the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) and Tabung Haji scandals, not to mention the corruption charges faced by the current Umno president, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The youths may also know that the high poverty index is not due to the lack of funds in creating opportunities and to aid the poor, but rather, due to the haemorrhaging of funds caused by wanton corruption by politicians and the hereditary privileged class.

The same predicament applies to Sabah and Sarawak, where the poor have been sidelined, while the political elites and their cohorts have enriched themselves, while conveniently blaming Peninsular Malaysia for their “less-than equitable” existence.

These 18-year-olds have not had the first-hand experience of 20th century political turmoil, and the trials and tribulations faced by the people under the yoke of a dominant political party for the past 60 years.

But now, these millennials would have become aware, through digital platforms and social media, of the financial shenanigans and the squandering of the nation’s wealth by the ruling politicians, especially in the second decade of the 21st century. One could surmise that they have been adequately informed of the local social and political situation.

Armed with this information, the more discerning and well-informed youths would certainly evaluate the prospective candidates and the track record of the parties they represent. Hopefully, they will choose candidates from parties that are not embroiled in corruption, abuse of power, and incompetent governance.

Nevertheless, there still exists a sizeable component of youths who will succumb to overtures by corrupt political parties and their candidates, with gifts and promises of prosperity, while playing the race and religion card, for good measure.

Notwithstanding that, there is a fair chance that a significant portion of our youths will vote based on the integrity, ethical and moral qualities, and competency of the candidates and the parties they represent.

And this could affect the outcome of the election.

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

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