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Monday, July 26, 2010

Winning over the non-partisan, young-and-restless generation

BN IS STARTING TO FEAR?

Alan Ting, Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR - It is estimated that seven million young voters will vote in the next or 13th general election and their support will determine the outcome.


However, a recent survey conducted by Barisan Nasional Youth Lab provided some insights into the thinking of young voters when it comes to national politics. Most of them are believed to be adopting a more non-partisan stand.

As the majority of youths are not party supporters, the survey showed that three in five Malaysian youths were undecided with their votes, or 62 per cent said they were still 'sitting on the fence', with regard to BN and Pakatan Rakyat.

The details of the survey, together with policy proposals, were presented by BN Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and his BN Youth Lab team to BN chairman Najib Abdul Razak last week, and will be made available to the public at a 'town hall' meeting with the prime minister, scheduled on Aug 20.

A series of surveys were conducted nationwide between March and June, by the BN Youth Lab programme, including through the social media, to detect relevant issues and problems affecting Malaysian youths today. The major concerns voiced by the interviewees were employment, education, rising cost of living and public transportation.

"They will vote for whoever they believe is better, in the next general election," said the findings, which was conducted by a special research group formed to assist the ruling coalition in formulating appropriate policies pertaining to the younger generation.

The BN Youth Lab findings were very much in tandem with the current political trend highlighted by various political observers and analysts, said media studies senior lecturer at Universiti Malaya, Dr Abu Hassan Hasbullah.

"The young voters now are more liberal and constructive and they do not weigh an issue based on political ideology. They can just switch their support or react to a situation any time," he said.

He added that the young generation no longer held on to a politician's word or promise, but would instead, evaluate how the parties concerned would handle various issues.

However, the director of Parti Gerakan think-tank, SEDAR, Khaw Veon Szu, believes that most of the youths were still very much inclined towards the opposition, even taking the percentage of the undecided, according to BN Youth Lab, standing at 60 per cent.

He said that voters kept changing, from month to month, adding that the general consensus for the 'young and the restless' was that they were in favour of the "other side"," in reference to the Opposition.

Khaw said the Opposition had some "fixed deposit" in the Chinese community and this explained why they had gone all out to register new and young voters because they viewed them as another round of "fixed deposit".

One of the sectors that can bring immediate impact and big results that would strike deep into the mind and heart of the young voters is the revamping of the education policy.

However, some political observers and party members pointed out that what BN needed now were solutions to solve concerns raised by these groups -- not another survey to find out the problems faced by the young.

"You don't need to conduct a study or survey to do that. As a youth, I can tell you what the youngsters want -- jobs, security, quality of life and good governance," a youth leader from a BN component party said.

However, Khaw said any type of survey was helpful and important to BN as it needed as much data as possible.

This is exactly what MIC Youth is doing, following the findings of various surveys. One of the strategies it adopted is to have more young leaders leading the movement at branch and divisional levels.

MIC Youth chief T. Mohan said that on Aug 21, 50 new youth branches with young leaders would be established, apart from registering new member as voters when they reached 21.

"Prior to this, we needed to wait until somebody relinquished his post or passed away. But now, the movement is seeing youth branch chairmen in their 20s and 30s," he said.

DAPSY chief Anthony Loke explained that the younger voters' greater inclination towards PR was largely due to the 'push' factor from the BN and not the 'pull' factor by the opposition pact or PR.

"We still need to work hard to attract them, by showing that we have better ideas, and can be a better government. The battle for young voters is still wide open. It's still an open market. The young voters will vote based on whoever can show that they are doing better," he said. - Bernama

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