News / Asia

Young Voters Key to Malaysia’s Hotly Contested Election

Young Malaysians wave flags during rehearsals for National Day celebrations, marking the anniversary of the country's independence, at the Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, in this August 29, 2012 file photo.
Young Malaysians wave flags during rehearsals for National Day celebrations, marking the anniversary of the country's independence, at the Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, in this August 29, 2012 file photo.
Kate Lamb
Malaysia is gearing up for a cliffhanger election Sunday, one that is expected to be the closest in its history.  In a country where the ruling party has been in power for 57 years, winning the support of young and first-time voters is key. Alternative media are playing a major role among Malaysia’s increasingly politicized youth.

The streets of Kuala Lumpur are lined with royal blue flags sporting a scale of justice motif. They are the campaign flags of Barisan National - Prime Minister Razak Najib’s ruling coalition.

The incumbent is going head-to-head with former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, who spent several years in prison on corruption and sodomy charges.

Malaysian Izzati Zaidi (R), 24, and her friends show placards in support of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak during the launch of the Malaysian Izzati Zaidi (R), 24, and her friends show placards in support of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak during the launch of the "Voices of My Generation" youth programme in Kuala Lumpur, April 12, 2013.
x
Malaysian Izzati Zaidi (R), 24, and her friends show placards in support of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak during the launch of the
Malaysian Izzati Zaidi (R), 24, and her friends show placards in support of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak during the launch of the "Voices of My Generation" youth programme in Kuala Lumpur, April 12, 2013.
The ruling coalition is hoping to reverse huge gains made by Anwar in 2008, when it lost 5 out of 13 states to the opposition, and its two-thirds majority in parliament.

This year with more 23 percent of voters under the age of 30 - and two million first-time voters - there is a battle to secure the support of young Malaysians.

Vincent Qwan is a 34-year-old engineer who lives in the trendy suburb of Bangsar, a hotly contested electorate in central Kuala Lumpur.

Representing an important swing vote, Vincent said he is tired of hearing about government corruption, and it is time for the ruling coalition to go.

"I look forward to a change of government," he said. "The main reason, I want the police to work as police, a judge to work as a judge, just to serve as what they are meant to be."

Given the proliferation of social networking and online news sites, analysts say young Malaysians are growing increasingly politicized.

Newspapers, TV and radio stations are largely owned by the Malaysian government, and heavily favor the ruling party. 

Vincent Qwan said he lost faith in the country’s press long ago.

"I don’t trust the local media anymore," he said. "TV, newspapers, I don’t trust them anymore. So only online source of news, there is a lot of chat by the public on the news online. I believe it is more rational as compared to bias news on Malaysia radio, newspapers."

But there is no censorship online, and niche online news websites such as Malaysiakini have been quick to fill the public appetite for independent news.

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is greeted by his supporters after an election campaign rally in Petaling Jaya outside Kuala Lumpur, May 1, 2013.Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is greeted by his supporters after an election campaign rally in Petaling Jaya outside Kuala Lumpur, May 1, 2013.
x
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is greeted by his supporters after an election campaign rally in Petaling Jaya outside Kuala Lumpur, May 1, 2013.
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is greeted by his supporters after an election campaign rally in Petaling Jaya outside Kuala Lumpur, May 1, 2013.
The news site is often critical of the government and over recent weeks has published stories about allegations of electoral fraud and government corruption scandals - some that are blacked out in the state media altogether.

Malaysiakini editor Steven Gan said the site plays an important role in offering an alternative voice.

"Some people would say the difference between traditional media and the Internet media is like heaven and earth. There is a vast difference there," he said. "What you read in the mainstream media, there are a lot of issues that are not being reported in the mainstream media that are being reported in the Internet media."

The ruling party has also been ramping up its presence online, launching a live stream of its press briefings and spending heavily on online advertising.

Analysts have even dubbed this, Malaysia’s first ‘social media election’ played out on the political battleground of the Internet.

Despite the lack of online censorship, several websites, including Malaysiakini and other online news sites, were the subject of well-planned cyber attacks this week.

Political analyst Tricia Yeoh, whose own website was also hacked, said it is important to ensure online news sites are not compromised on election day.

"Come election day when the election results start to stream in we really want to make sure those sites are secure so that the results can be made known immediately to the public and there’s no delay in getting the results out," said Yeoh.

Human Rights Watch this week said the Malaysian government has a duty to investigate and shut down all cyber attacks, and ensure everyone can access information without interference.

Some 13.3 million Malaysians are registered to vote in Sunday’s poll, with the preliminary results expected early Monday morning.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs