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Thursday, June 29, 2017

‘Voters don’t always look at manifestos to decide who to support’

But they are important nonetheless because they bind political parties and politicians, says think tank.
Wong-Chin-Huat-votersPETALING JAYA: A think tank has dismissed the idea that there should be a common ground in manifestos among parties within a coalition to win over voters.
Political and social analyst Wong Chin Huat, from the Penang Institute, responding to a statement made by an NGO, My Kuasa, said voters do not always look at manifestos to decide which party to support.
However, he said manifestos were important nonetheless because they bind political parties and politicians, making things more predictable, more so when parties are forming coalitions rather than running on their own.
“If an issue is not covered in the manifestos, we will not know the stand of the parties if such any issue suddenly becomes important.
“Allies may fight over issues because they are not bound by any promises in the various manifestos,” he told FMT.
My Kuasa, an NGO that annually monitors elected representatives, said in a recent report that both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) seem not to take their manifestos seriously.
Both coalitions also failed to present regular progress reports on the plans implemented, it said.
Wong said manifestos were important for voters who care about stability and predictability.
If parties were ambiguous and avoided taking a stand before elections, these issues may come back to haunt them after the elections.
In the case of PH, Wong said the opposition coalition could use the preparation of manifestos as a process to involve stakeholders and members of the public. This will make them feel they have ownership in the final manifesto produced.
“This will appeal to people who are tired of political attacks and want to see something more constructive being done,” added Wong.
Eddin Khoo, the founder and director of another NGO, Pusaka, said in the case of young voters, they want to be inspired and PH needs to be more innovative and radical in their campaign strategy.
“Their engagement of young people needs to be on the terms of these youths. They should have more dialogue with this group of people,” Khoo told FMT.
Data from the National Youth Survey 2012 showed Malaysian youth to be increasingly well-informed and well connected to the internet as a source of information.
The study also found that Malaysian youths were aware of government policies such as Vision 2020 and the 1Malaysia concept, while paying attention to the state of their communities and nation.
In other words, their political thinking is not static but changes according to what’s going on around them.
In 2013, youths made up 43% of Malaysia’s total population.
There were 2.6 million first-time voters in GE13 in 2013, making up roughly a fifth of Malaysia’s 13.3 million eligible voters.
That figure was much higher than the 638,000 new voters in 2008.
Youth activist Adrian Lim said “fragmented” types of voters also played a part as youths in the urban areas were seen to be more politically sensitive.
He said urban youths might have doubts in voting for the opposition coalition because the parties do not have a clear agreement on their policies.
Lim said PH was still struggling to penetrate the rural areas which are largely controlled by BN and very tight-minded.
“PH should concentrate on influencing and educating people who recently migrated from rural to urban areas, such as youngsters who come into town to look for jobs.”
Lim said such youths will be surrounded by city dwellers who were more open to new ideas and this will influence the way they make decisions.
Taking a page from Umno’s book, he said the ruling party had established its mark decades ago and it was not easy for PH to do the same in such a short period of time.
“Political messaging is not going to take effect with just one ceramah. It is a gradual process. Only then will people make a decision,” added Lim. - FMT

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