GEORGE TOWN, Nov 8 — Candidates for the 15th General Election (GE15) need to be smart about their political branding to appear more attractive to young voters.
Political sociology lecturer from the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, said most of these young voters are fence-sitters or still undecided about choosing their candidates.
“They may choose not to vote. However, if a leader has his own brand that can be promoted by the party with a character to be emulated, these young voters will come out to support that leader.”
“This is because the agents of socialisation that can influence the young voters are the party leaders themselves, besides family, peers, educational institutions, government agencies and the media,” he told Bernama recently.
According to statistics from the Election Commission (EC), about 68,000 voters out of over 1.2 million registered voters in Penang aged between 18 and 20.
In GE14, Pakatan Harapan representatives dominated the Penang parliamentary seats, with DAP holding seven seats and PKR (four), while Barisan Nasional through UMNO (two) out of the total 13 seats.
Meanwhile, undergraduate Kishan Deepak Buxani, 25, from Batu Ferringhi, hoped that candidates would highlight the issue of youth unemployment in their political campaign as it is a serious, growing concern among the young.
“Not many candidates are talking about this, and there is no direction or policy on how this issue will be tackled if any one coalition wins the election. Among the pressing issues for young voters are employment, salary and cost of living,” he said.
The political science final year student at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said many of his peers are eager to go back to their hometown to cast their ballots but face the dilemma of either spending money on travel fare or keeping them ‘to survive the next month’.
Kishan and his three friends founded a movement called #SiswaBalik to reach out to youth currently studying in Sarawak and found that 76.7 per cent of respondents hope to return to their constituency but are unable to do so due to expensive travel fares.
“What is even more surprising is that 49.7 per cent of them study in their native land of Sarawak. Therefore, we plead to the EC to allow postal votes for students and for the interim government to work with transportation companies to come up with a fixed, affordable rate for students,” he added.
Meanwhile, a waiter at a restaurant in Penanti, Muhammad Afiq Syazani, 21, hoped to see a candidate who is serious about improving the lives of the locals, including offering more job opportunities with higher wages and upgrading rural infrastructures to be on par as those in the city.
“Among them is road infrastructure. Most of the roads in village areas are narrow and difficult to access. This can be a problem at peak hours as many residents work outside the area.”
“Furthermore, if more job opportunities are created, residents will not have to go far to earn a living,” he said.
Polling has been set for Nov 19 and early voting on Nov 15.