University Students and Voting Behavior in General Elections: Perceptions on Malaysian Political Parties Leadership

By Pandian, Sivamurugan | Asian Social Science, September 2014 | Go to article overview

University Students and Voting Behavior in General Elections: Perceptions on Malaysian Political Parties Leadership


Pandian, Sivamurugan, Asian Social Science


Abstract

Malaysia's 13th General Election held on 5 May 2013 was one of the most exciting General Elections in Malaysia's political history. The result showed that the ruling party Barisan Nasional (National Front) or BN and the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (People's Alliance) or PR contested closely in the 222 Parliamentary seats. Although the results showed a rather status quo in favour of the ruling party, the opposition coalition managed to increase their seats to 89 compared to 82 from the 2008 12th General Election while the seats obtained by the ruling party reduced to 133 from 140 seats. National Youth Survey by the Asia Foundation indicated that the political thinking of the youths in Malaysia are not static but have changed accordingly. This new shift allows this paper to discuss the position of the youth in Malaysia with a reference to the selected university students on Malaysian political parties' leadership and which party will benefit from their role in Malaysian politics.

Keywords: Malaysia, youth, leadership, voting patterns, elections

1. Introduction

As it is now prevalent, the previously mellow emphasis placed on the more knowledgeable, nubile, energetic and charismatic young voter to produce change in the Malaysian democratic stagnancy is seeing a monumental expansion. Such a blatant and direct statement comes with proof of not only increased levels of political participation by the youth but also more open sharing of thoughts and ideas about the process itself. Allowing consideration on dimensions of age, political immaturity and volatility in decision making, many recently conducted research indicated that almost half of the first time voters in Malaysia were 'fence sitters' or eleventh hour decision maker. It is these undecided, issue based, rational thinking young voters who played a rather important role in the 2008 General Elections, causing disconnect with the ruling party's status quo styled campaign strategies (Pandian, 2010).

Illustrating this predicament is the 5% vote disparity in 2013 between the Barisan Nasional (National Front), also known as BN (47%) and Pakatan Rakyat (People Coalition), also called as PR (52%) popular vote which signifies an understated shiftaway from the status quo although in the 'first past the goal post' system, what matters is the number of seats won and not the ballot paper received by parties involved. Adding to this scenario of youthful benevolence are statistics implicated by the Elections Commission where 450,000 Malaysian citizens turn 21 each year and that 70% of some 4.2 million unregistered voters are between the ages of 21 and 40. In 2012, the EC noticed 2.4 million first time voters which constituted almost 30% of the entire voting population at the time (Nawab, 2013).

Stated above are, if not already acknowledged, consequential figures in highlighting the youth as game changers in the present Malaysian political arena. This article shall seek to explain the young voter's perceptions on the political party leadership and how this could very possibly shape their voting patterns and behaviours. The discussion is based on statistical figures, previous analyses and a strategically constructed questionnaire to gauge the depth of current opinion on the voting trend among youth in Malaysia. With the 13th Malaysian General Elections which took place in May 2013 as a cornerstone indicator in this research, the young voter perceptions and the accompanying 'fence sitter' ideology will be scrutinized in detail, adding much needed intellectual flavor to a subject which has yet to unearth its truest potential.

2. Previous Research and Background of Study

Studies on voting behaviour and perceptions on party leadership such as this, though considerably important, are rarely prioritized when scrutinizing voting patterns and campaign outcomes. For example, research on this particular cohort that this article revolves around have yet to take popularity. …

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