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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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 Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More