Why the inclusion of younger voters will help end gutter politics — Muhammad Allif

JUNE 18 — The recent sex scandal to hit Malaysian politics shows us everything that the youth do not like about politics in Malaysia. The hype, the focus, the trauma that the accused minister’s family must go through, and the fact that so much of our attention is focused on this rather than real issues affecting the common man on the street is what I call the consequences of gutter politics.

Whilst the government is busy covering up this obvious internal conflict, the opposition is simply trying to use the situation to get back into government. No one wants to talk about real issues. Instead of raising important issues that affect our day-to-day lives, family WhatsApp groups would rather debate the legitimacy of the scandal rather than focus on real fundamental issues that have an impact on our daily life.

Our cost of living continues to rise, students are still left confused about the solutions to PTPTN loans, and youth unemployment is still high. Every headline and second we waste not talking about these issues will dangerous. Many students sitting for SPM this year are left uncertain as to where they can turn to continue their studies. Yet none of these topics are being debated or discussed at an in-depth level. The focus is on the hotel room the video was taken in. Rather than being concerned in finding creative solutions for important youth issues, we are more concerned in finding out who, what, and when the sex video was taken.

Coincidentally, the PH government will in early July introduce a new reform to lower the voting age to 18 which will involve an amendment to our Federal Constitution. This was promised in their manifesto and it is something they hope to get through parliament in their second year of power.

Whilst many people I have talked to seem hesitant to allow 18-year-olds the right to vote, I personally believe it may be the crucial cure to the dirty disgusting politics we see today.

Youth voters make up around 41 per cent of the electorate in GE14, close to 20 per cent were aged between 21 and 29. It was this batch of voters that played the key influential role in the outcome of the election.

It was this group that motivated the ground, that urged people to register more. It was this group of enthusiastic young voters that ran to ensure that postal votes overseas were counted. It was this group also that started a campaign to ensure that everyone had a ride home to vote. Media-savvy and always informed, youth voters in fact played a huge role in the results of GE14, the historic change in government.

Regardless of our thoughts on the PH government, the system needed to be tested. The system had to have a change of power to make it stronger. Alternatively, our democracy has strengthened as result of this change. We know that Malaysians are capable of a smooth transition of power.

We have finally come to the point where Malaysia now has a two-party system. This is not to say the new government is doing better than the last. Yet the new change of power has allowed Malaysians to see that there is no good side and bad side.

Malaysians now get to see that both sides of the political spectrum have their bad sides. No political party is perfect. As a whole, our discourse has evolved from “this side is better than that side” to now “this side is better than that side in this, but that other side did this better.” Malaysians have reached a discourse middle ground.

Now imagine if we included more of these energetic, enthusiastic first time voters. Imagine what good the inclusion of these tax-paying Malaysians would do to our democracy. Issues pertaining to the youth would be more heavily emphasised because politicians know that a failure to address youth concerns would cost them votes.

Studies have shown that the new generation of voters today are less likely to vote one single party their whole lives. This is crucial. If the current government does a bad job, then we can count on these new voters to flip the table. If the new government after that does a similarly bad job, then we can continue to rely on these voters to keep demanding for a better government.

Youth unemployment, PTPTN loans, and other youth-related issues should be highlighted rather than a video that will only further highlight our nation’s misplaced priorities.

Gutter politics should be rejected in totality. The sensationalism, the attention, and the unnecessary conspiracies prevent our political discourses to be meaningful. I’m sure come GE15, voters would make it clear when they cast their ballots.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.