Mind the gap: The problem Mahathir faces with young voters - The Straits Times


By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief In Kuala Lumpur

A survey by top pollster Merdeka Centre last August found that seven out of 10 voters below the age of 30 in Peninsular Malaysia do not care about politics; two-thirds believe politicians were not just untrustworthy, but also the "main problem in Malaysia". Four in 10 were not registered to vote.

The Election Commission's data backs up this finding, with two-thirds of unregistered voters being in their 20s. As of June, 3.8 million eligible Malaysians have yet to sign up, more than a quarter of the 14.6 million who have enrolled.

This is in stark contrast to the exuberance of the 2008-2013 period. The electoral roll had increased by 2.35 million voters to 13.3 million between the national polls. New sign-ups are usually those who recently reached the voting age of 21. A 1.3 million increase since the 2013 ballot is paltry. Given the current mood of political apathy and fatigue, it is unlikely that the next general election will see the 85 per cent turnout of the preceding one.

Such a situation has huge ramifications for the opposition, which is hoping that the third time's the charm, after making gains in voter support against the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) government in two general elections in the past decade. But those results were possible because of a significant youth swing for the opposition.