COMMENTARY, July 19 — Islamist party PAS and its political opposite DAP are seen as the two parties that will benefit the most when the Undi 18 is gazetted into law.
Going by their presence and brand names alone, the Opposition party and the Chinese-dominated ruling party are considered popular among the current crop of youths who will be eligible to vote in GE15, due by 2023.
Leaders of both parties at the grassroots level are seen to mingle easily and frequently with people of all ages. They also do not go around in fancy cars or mix only with high-level community leaders.
The public sees these grassroots politicians as “one of them”.
While these politicians may not attract much attention for their party ideologies, school leavers and those in their late teens to early 20s looking for guidance in getting jobs or to further their studies or even start small businesses will seek them out.
And it is very easy to do so.
For PAS grassroots leaders make themselves available anytime of the day at the thousands of mosques and surau nationwide while DAP grassroots leaders can be found day and night at the markets and coffeeshops and their service centres.
The benefits of the Undi 18 law for the other political parties appear to vary.
For Umno, which is presently still searching for its soul, any advantage it gains will be from its alliance with PAS even though the Malay nationalist party is said to be the biggest political party of them all by dint of its long history and status as the previous ruling party.
Despite a presence in every nook and cranny of the country, Umno is actually detached from the younger generation no thanks to its focus on those of voting age previously, which was those 21 and above.
This eventually created a chasm, which is why those who carry the country’s future hopes on their young shoulders — especially university and college students — have grown to have fewer “likes” for the 60-year-old party.
Unfortunately, the biggest Malay-based party in their country does not appear to have come to terms with this. Its grassroots leaders still act arrogant, which puts off young potential voters from getting closer to the party that was supposed to uplift the economic and social standing of their community.
Umno’s coalition partners, the Chinese-based MCA, stands to lose most under the Undi 18 law because the party has, and is still viewed as a “party for towkays”. Middle-income and working-class Chinese Malaysians mostly ignore MCA.
Then there is MIC, which has not been able to curry more favour from the community it is supposed to represent. The vote of Indian Malaysian voters is known to swing in favour of whichever party that serves them most at that particular point in time.
While they are in the ruling Pakatan Harapan, Bersatu and Amanah are the two newest Malay parties in the country and are unlikely to gain much as their brand names are not widely known among voters, even less the younger potential ones.
As such, these two PH parties will need to redouble their efforts in setting up branches and divisions across the length and breadth of the country within the next four years if they want to tap into the huge voter pool now available to stay in the electoral race.
PH’s biggest party PKR is also not expected to gain much from the Undi 18 law despite being urban-based and the most social media savvy.
The reason for it, at least in the foreseeable future, is due to the public spat between its number one Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his deputy Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.
And social media, which has become the main source of news for Malaysians, political or otherwise, is seen to carry more current events whether true or false compared to mainstream news organisations.