Wednesday, December 7

Of frustrating politics and intrigue ahead of GE15

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The time has come for young Malaysians, particularly those in the Undi18 category, to get political and participate in mainstream politics, and the election is a good staging point. — Bernama photo

WHEN friendship and purported alliances fall apart, backstabbing and silent skirmishes become part of the game of power. The current game is ruthless and brutal. It could be temporary if the desired power is eventually secured.

Politics can be toxic and frustrating. And it has been in recent times, as millions across the country watched in dismay at rival groups in the ruling coalition fighting for power, including engaging some of the most Machiavellian fashion in modern democracy.

Never mind the parties in Pakatan Harapan (PH) that are outside the ruling coalition, are staunchly opposed to the government, and are widely known as waiting to amass enough votes to form the government.

The PH is the ‘enemy’ of Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Barisan Nasional (BN), two key components of Malaysia’s ruling coalition. However, as the 15th General Election (GE15) approaches, the PN and BN have become adversaries.

The current political situation is not healthy or stable, as 21 million voters assess the situation and decide who and which parties they want to vote at the GE15 to form the new government.

The main contending parties have broken ranks, and their previous cooperation and political alliances have been consigned to the dustbin of history, at least for the time being, ahead of GE15.

Battle in Malay heartland

Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) has made public that it remains in Bersatu-led PN and severs political ties with Umno, its previous ally. Adding colour to the political narrative is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad-led Pejuang, which is joining the fray to contest in the Malay heartland against PN (Bersatu and PAS) and BN (Umno), although the former has lost badly in last year’s elections in Melaka and Johor.

Will Dr Mahathir be able to spring new surprises that can rejuvenate his party and make inroads into the predominantly Malay heartland?

Perhaps not, as the expected intensity of the battle between BN, PN, and PH, which is essentially the focus of political observers, leaves little room for Pejuang to drive the wedge and assert its presence. It will only exacerbate the tumultuous situation that already plagues Peninsular Malaysia’s rural Malay voters.

Race and religion card

In such a case, where Malays’ votes would inevitably be split, the race and religion card would be played, and competing Malay parties would try to outdo each other on religious knowledge, advocacy, and theological authority.

The non-Muslim and non-Malay political contenders and electorate would sit out and watch the debate on the periphery. Watch they will, but quietly they will decipher the implications of the issues on the wider Malaysian plural society.

Backstabbing, silent skirmishes

When friendship and purported alliances fall apart, backstabbing and silent skirmishes become part of the game of power. The current game is ruthless and brutal. It could be temporary if the desired power is eventually secured.

The majority of people are aware of and understand the intrigue, but they can only watch from afar in silence.

But all of that silence will be broken when they go to the polls, certain of their decision and unwavering in their choice of party.

They hold the power. Their decision will determine the fate of the country.

Smooth course for GPS

While uncertainty continues to dominate Malaysian politics at the centre, with no sign of compromise in sight, Sarawak is the polar opposite with the GPS holding firmly and with confidence the reign to ensure unity and stability.

It is widely assumed that GPS’s landslide victory in Sarawak’s state election last year will have an impact on the outcome of GE15.

Almost certain of repeating its feat of the previous election, GPS is widely said to be on course to securing 28 seats in GE15.

Its only concern is which political party it will align with after the election.

Maybe, it is a premature concern before the polls.

Still, it is set to be in an advantageous position to stake its bargain for Sarawak.

With the full implementation of Undi18, or the constitutional amendment that lowered the minimum voting age from 21 to 18 years old, another 5.8 million voters are added to the nation’s electoral roll.

Sarawak, on the other hand, had a total of 1,927,750 voters at the end of last year, an increase of 672,637 from the previous quarter’s total of 1,255,113 voters.

Among these, 143,609 (20.9 per cent) are 18 to 20-year-old voters, 310,391 (45.2 per cent) are 21 to 29-year-old voters, and 132,022 (19.23 per cent) are 30 to 39-year-old voters.

A pertinent question for political leaders is where these young voters’ votes will go and what trends are emerging.

Undi18 voters

Not to be dismissed as a myth, 2022 is the year in which young Malaysians can have a great and lasting impact on the country.

Young Sarawakians are no exception. They have the great power of deciding who will lead the country for the next five years.

The time has come for young Malaysians, particularly those in the Undi18 category, to get political and participate in mainstream politics, and the election is a good staging point.

It is time for them to step up to the plate and put their act together for the sake of the country.

It is time for them to understand that politics determines who governs and that governance has an impact on all aspects of life.

Participation of the young generation in electoral politics is considered as dependent variable, and social media considered as independent variable. In this instance, participation of young voters, especially those grouped under Undi18, in electoral politics means that the young people are influenced by social media in electoral politics where the indicators are voting behaviour, political communication, electioneering campaigning, public opinion, political consciousness.

Social media and politics

Social media would be the most effective way to reach out to young voters.

The world now has 3.96 billion active social media users – more than half of the world’s total population – and four out of 10 users are spending more time on social media than ever before.

It is easy to see why political candidates should use social media to reach out to younger voters.

With the younger generation becoming more politically involved and mistrusting mainstream platforms, social media has proven to be a place for opinion-sharing amongst peers, and for emerging media platforms to gain traction and reach new audiences.

According to studies, younger social media users are less likely to trust everything posted on social media and, in general, the mainstream news.

Even though GE15 is the first opportunity for Undi18 voters to vote, they would have seen how it has been manipulated in previous elections used to sow distrust and spread misinformation.

If there is one party that is riding high on the backs of a large number of educated, discerning, and social media-savvy young voters, it has to be the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda). It connects well with young voters through social media and is bold in raising issues that are close to the hearts and minds of young people.

To be relevant with the changing times and acceptable to the young political aspirants, the old familiar political script and power patronage protocol that once prevailed, would have to be tampered with.

* Toman Mamora (PhD Nottingham, UK) is a communication and research consultant. He comments on contemporary social and political issues and seeks to raise public opinion on subjects of societal value.