Can Mahathir inject new life into Malaysia's opposition? - SEA Globe

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) has held onto power despite being embroiled in a major corruption scandal Photo: Lai Seng Sin/Reuters

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) has held onto power despite being embroiled in a major corruption scandal Photo: Lai Seng Sin/Reuters

Young Malaysians are already among the most sceptical in the electorate. A survey commissioned last August by Watan, a non-profit set up to get more young people to vote, found that 40% of Malaysians aged 21 to 30 had not registered to vote. At the same time, at least 57% said they were dissatisfied with the way the country was headed.

Najib is seen as having an advantage despite the graft allegations and unhappiness over the cost of living. As the incumbent, he has greater financial resources, controls the mainstream media and has the benefit of constituencies that are heavily weighted towards his coalition’s traditional rural base – the UMNO did, after all, win more parliamentary seats and thus the last general election in 2013, despite the fact they lost the popular vote.

“The choices that are in front of us are not simple,” said Masjaliza Hamzah, Watan’s executive director. “Sometimes when you vote, you do not get the person you want. [But] being a strong voice for democracy is not just about voting every five years – it’s also about what we are prepared to do to ensure the institutional structures are strong. It’s not just one man, but a system.”

Watan