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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs