Pessimism may see lower Chinese youth turnout in GE14

by Gan Pei Ling, 28 Nov 2017 © The Malaysian Insight

UNINSPIRED and pessimistic.

That’s how more politically aware Chinese Malaysian youth would describe the prevalent mood of their counterparts in the run up to the 14th general election that must be held by next August.

Chin Ching Xuan, 29, an administrative worker from Johor Baru, said she would vote in the next election, but she was not impressed by politicians on both sides of the divide compared to 2013.

“Honestly, I haven’t decided who I will vote for. Very few of them (the politicians) are genuinely in it for the people.

“Most of them are either in it for the power, status or money, but don’t go overboard lah,” said Chin, a voter in Tebrau, a traditional BN stronghold currently held by MCA’s Khoo Soo Seang.

“It doesn’t matter who they put as the candidate in Tebrau, BN will probably still win,” she said.

First-time voter Lim Pau Hau, 23, a final-year international relations student at Universiti Utara Malaysia, told The Malaysian Insight he was an anomaly among his peers.

“I’ll definitely vote, but most of my peers are more worried about their career prospects and money, whether they can survive their internship with RM500 a month or less, and their starting salaries when they graduate,” said Lim.

Lim is also a student activist with a two-decade-old university youth group – Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (Dema).

“Most (students) don’t really care about politics and political parties, whether it’s BN, PKR, DAP or PAS, or whether Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) is now in the same camp with (DAP veteran) Lim Kit Siang.

“They know about these parties by name but they don’t know how to differentiate between a state assemblyman and member of parliament,” said the youth from Labis, Johor.

He blames their political apathy on the lack of quality civic education in Malaysia.

Lim said his political exposure came from his father, who was an MCA member, General Studies in Form Six, campus politics in UUM, and observing the 2013 elections in Labis.

Labis, a traditional BN stronghold, was won by MCA’s Chua Tee Yong with a 353-vote majority in 2013.

Labis and Segamat in Johor, and Tanjung Malim in Perak, are traditional BN strongholds that were won with small majorities and where slightly more than 60% of the Chinese voted for the opposition in 2008.

That support rose to between 80% and 90% in 2013, said Merdeka Center for Opinion Research research manager Tan Seng Keat.

Chinese Malaysians contributed to more than half of the popular vote won by the now defunct opposition bloc Pakatan Rakyat in 2013, at 50.21% or 2.92 million votes.

PR – then composing DAP, PKR and PAS – won 52% of the 11 million votes cast in 2013, but gained only 89 out of the 222 federal seats.

This was due to the disproportionate structure of seats and Malaysia’s first-past-the-post voting system.

Tan said a decline of Chinese voter turnout of between 10% and 15%, due to a lower prospect of changing the federal government and political fatigue, could hurt the opposition’s chances in the next elections.

He said voter turnout among Chinese youth could be significantly lower.

Tan recalled that about 300,000 new voters were registered every quarter in the run-up to 2013 and Chinese youth were excited about a potential change in the federal government.

That enthusiasm had died down post-2013 elections, and he sees no signs of it being revived as the 14th general election draws closer.

“Chinese youth are less and less politicised. They are much more critical of BN but at the same time they are uninspired by opposition figures, unlike in previous general elections.

“Some of them may spoil their votes or not turn out to vote at all.

“Those who work or study outstations or overseas may not return to vote, like in 2013,” said Tan.

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