Pakatan scrambles to woo young voters

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal, The Malaysian Insider

With snap polls rumoured to be called this year, the federal opposition is racing to secure the support of the youngest voter segment, one which it claims was being “indoctrinated” by the ruling administration from a tender age.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) officials claimed young Malay voters are leaning towards Barisan Nasional (BN) as a result of what it terms indoctrination from National Civics Bureau (BTN) and National Service programmes.

PR officials said that the coalition also risks losing the support of young voters between the age of 19 to 22 to BN, and that there was currently a “gap” between PR’s youth leadership and student leaders in public universities.

Opposition leaders also feel that PR’s youth wings were currently too focused on “national-based issues,” stressing the need for the coalition to engage more with students, particularly those from the Malay community.

The Malaysian Insider understands that one PR party, PKR, has started brainstorming sessions to address these issues and find long-term measures to counter BN’s success in the crucial voter segment.

“I think it is quite clear that youths, students especially young Malays between the age of 19 to 22, are at an age where their political awareness is quite low,” PKR strategy chief Rafizi Ramli told The Malaysian Insider.

“This is a cause for concern on our side (PR) because many of these students in this age group go through national service, national civics bureau (BTN) and go through the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) and become indoctrinated to support BN… which is why they (BN) defend the national service, BTN at all costs,” he said.

PR has consistently blamed the BTN courses for promoting a race-based culture in Malaysian, using it a fodder for many political talks and events.

Rafizi claimed BTN had been conducting courses for students as young as 15.

He noted that unlike Malays, non-Malay students were exposed to slightly more independent sources of information in the form of the Chinese media.

The 19-22 age group had voted against Nurul Izzah in Election 2008.
“We are concerned about the age groups that have not yet entered universities or who have just entered public universities… by the time they graduate we can even [point] out the ones who support BN and PR, it’s just this 19-22 age group which is a real challenge to us,” said Rafizi.

According to the PKR leader, PR needed to revive its ties with student leaders and activists in order to counter BN’s popularity with young students.

“The latest trend is quite positive as there is a revival of student activism.  BN will cut these youths off, which is why we have to engage with these groups.