Are young voters under 30 really relevant?



The recently concluded Johor state election last Saturday (March 12) has only served to confirm that the mainstream coalitions such as Barisan Nasional (BN), Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) are still the dominant players on the scene.

That said, budding new entrant Malaysian United Democratic Alliance or MUDA managed to win one state seat with the help of PH.

MUDA secretary-general Amira Aisya Abd Aziz

MUDA secretary-general Amira Aisya Abd Aziz, 27, won the Puteri Wangsa state seat with a majority of 7,114 votes in a six-cornered fight. She defeated BN’s Ng Yew Aik, Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang)’s Dr Khairil Anwar Razali, PN’s Loh Kah Yong, Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM)’s Steven Choong Shiau Yoon and independent Adzrin Adam.

However, MUDA did not manage to win the remaining six seats contested.

Therefore, whether both the voters from the 21-29 age group and the new bloc of voters from the 18-20 (so-called Undi 18) age group would play a critical role in subsequent elections – or hold the key to decisive electoral victory – remain to be seen.

Let us look into the proportion of young voters under the seven seats contested by MUDA in Table 1:

Table 1: Proportion of eligible young voters, under 30 (%)

No.Code & Name of the State Constituency18-20 Electors (%)21-29 Electors (%)Under 30 (%)Winning Political Coalition/ PartyWinner
1.N5 Tenang5.1318.2223.35BNHaslinda Binti Salleh
2.N7 Bukit Kepong5.0719.0324.1PNDato’ Dr Sahruddin Bin Jamal
3.N22 Parit Raja7.4323.6931.12BNRashidah Ramli
4.N26 Machap6.7723.2930.06BNOnn Hafiz Ghazi
5.N41 Puteri Wangsa9.8926.8736.76MUDAAmira Aisya Abd Aziz
6.N44 Larkin4.6917.0721.76BNMohd Hairi Bin Mad Shah
7.N50 Bukit Permai9.7825.4835.26BNDato’ Mohd Jafni Md Shukor

Source: Tindak Malaysia

Among the remaining six seats contested by MUDA, BN won five of them with PN winning one. Despite Parit Raja, Machap and Bukit Permai having over 30 per cent of Johorean voters under 30, BN secured all three state seats comfortably.

Let us also look into the other state constituencies with over 30 per cent of Johorean voters under 30 in Table 2:

Table 2: Proportion of eligible young voters, under 30 (%)

No.Code & Name of the State Constituency18-20 Electors (%)21-29 Electors (%)Under 30 (%)Winning Political Coalition/ PartyWinner
1.N4 Kemelah6.8223.330.12BNSaras
2.N8 Bukit Pasir7.1523.0130.16BNMohamad Fazli Bin Mohamad Salleh
3.N13 Simpang Jeram6.8123.5830.39PHDatuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub
4.N21 Parit Yaani7.5525.7133.26BNDatuk Najib Samuri
5.N34 Panti7.7823.7931.57BNHahasrin Bin Hashim
6.N35 Pasir Raja7.3324.5731.9BNRashidah Binti Ismail
7.N40 Tiram10.0427.537.54BNHj. Azizul  Bin Bachok
8.N42 Johor Jaya7.0223.5130.53PHLiow Cai Tung
9.N43 Permas8.6825.6634.34BNBaharudin Bin Mohamed Taib
10.N49 Kota Iskandar9.427.4536.85BNPandak Bin Ahmad
11.N51 Bukit Batu8.2324.8633.09PHArthur Chiong Sen Sern

Source: Tindak Malaysia

When combining Table 1 and Table 2 to analyse how MUDA as a youth-based political party and the main coalitions such as BN, PN and PH performed, BN secured 13 out of 18 state seats with over 30 per cent of young voters under 30, followed by three from PH. PN and Muda each secured one state seat.

Nevertheless, let us further analyse state seats with over 30 per cent of young voters under 30 based on the Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnic classifications in Table 3.

Table 3: The proportion of Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnic groups for 15 state seats with over 30% of eligible young voters under 30 (%)

(Col. 1) No.(Col. 2) Code & Name of the State Constituency(Col. 3) Urban-Rural Classification (2020)(Col. 4) Malay Population (%)(Col. 5) Chinese Population (%)(Col. 6) Indian Population (%)(Col. 7) Chinese + Indian Population (%)(Col. 8) Winning Political Coalition(Col. 9) Winning Political Party
1.N4 KemelahSemi Urban57.8534.286.0140.29BNMIC
2.N8 Bukit PasirSemi Urban68.6126.973.6830.65BNUMNO
3.N13 Simpang JeramUrban51.9645.452.0347.48PHAMANAH
4.N21 Parit YaaniSemi Urban58.2639.950.8540.8BNUMNO
5.N22 Parit RajaSemi Urban78.2517.262.5419.8BNUMNO
6.N26 MachapSemi Urban68.7825.544.6330.17BNUMNO
7.N34 PantiSemi Urban81.3412.473.9316.4BNUMNO
8.N35 Pasir RajaRural72.5217.427.224.62BNUMNO
9.N40 TiramUrban69.4319.077.6126.68BNUMNO
10.N41 Puteri WangsaUrban38.0653.257.3460.59MUDA
11.N42 Johor JayaUrban48.0740.896.7847.67PHDAP
12.N43 PermasUrban62.6924.977.5832.55BNUMNO
13N49 Kota IskandarUrban53.7432.5611.8444.4BNUMNO
14.N50 Bukit PermaiSemi Urban60.8626.1811.7237.9BNUMNO
15.N51 Bukit BatuSemi Urban48.7440.948.9149.85PHPKR

Source: Tindak Malaysia

From these 15 state seats with over 30 per cent of young voters under 30, BN secured 11 seats, followed by three from PH and one from MUDA.

State seats such as Kemelah, Bukit Pasir, Parit Yaani, Parti Raja, Machap, Panti, Pasir Raja, Tiram, Permas, Kota Iskandar and Bukit Permai with over 50 per cent of Malay population and less than 45 per cent of Chinese and Indian population were secured by BN. On the other hand, PH managed to win urban state seats such as Simpang Jeram and Johor Jaya with similar ethnic group compositions.

The urban-rural divide is also a factor – with BN dominating the semi-urban and rural constituencies.

MUDA could win Puteri Wangsa mainly due to the over 60 per cent of non-Malay population within this urban state constituency. With a slightly higher non-Malay population in semi-urban state seats such as Bukit Batu, PKR managed to secure only this one for the party in this election.

With merely 53.6 per cent of overall voter turnout during this Johor state election, potentially there could well be only 14 per cent of young Johoreans under 30 (approximately 103,732 out of 740,945) who cast their vote.

Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) president Syed Saddiq

According to the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC), 28.5 per cent out of 2,597,742 eligible Johorean voters are under 30 years old; 173,177 Johoreans (6.67 per cent) are between 18-20 years old; and 567,768 voters (21.86 per cent) are between 21-29 years old.

Notwithstanding, some non-profit organisations (NGOs) such as Undi Johor and the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) Youth assisted voters living outside of Johor to fulfil their democratic duty and vote in the Johor state election.

However, the outreach efforts were limited – either some Johoreans (including those staying in the city centre of Johor Bahru) were not aware of their eligibility to vote or had no clue about the voting process.

In addition, many young Johoreans do not have a clear and distinct idea of the ideologies of the various parties, what concrete or fleshed-out policies they will bring to the table and what initiatives they intend to implement to help young Johoreans overcome their economic woes.

Moreover, some young Johoreans working or studying in other states or countries either chose not to go home casting their votes during polling day or not arrange postal voting before the deadline on Feb 18.

Rising COVID-19 cases during recent weeks and financial barriers to travel back to their respective hometown constituencies are among the factors deterring them from voting.

As a result, only 7,824 Malaysians overseas have registered as postal voters for this Johor state election. Some state constituencies nearby Singapore like Puteri Wangsa, Johor Jaya and Kota Iskandar (see Table 3) recorded the lowest voter turnout at 46.94 per cent, 51.58 per cent and 48.72 per cent, respectively.

Therefore, to increase the awareness of the importance of voting among eligible young voters under 30 nationwide, the EC could take the lead to educate urban and rural Malaysian youths on why votes matter by conducting roadshows, seminars and workshops.

Although Undi 18 – as a Malaysian youth movement – advocated for the amendment of Article 119(1) of the Federal Constitution to reduce the minimum voting age in Malaysia from 21 to 18 years old, many of the youths residing outside of Klang Valley were oblivious to the current political climate in the country.

They are unaware of how their votes could influence policymaking and the impact on the next generations to come.

In a nutshell, the government, political parties and civil societies have to think of creative ways to encourage, educate and mobilise more young voters under 30 to come out and vote in the subsequent elections, especially in relation to the soon-to-be-held 15th general election (GE15).

Continuous efforts in spurring the young to be involved in the democratic process would motivate them to vote for a better future for Malaysia.

Amanda Yeo is a research analyst at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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