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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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 "Voices of My Generation" youth programme in Kuala Lumpur, April 12, 2013.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 "Voices of My Generation" youth programme in Kuala Lumpur, April 12, 2013.
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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid