Malaysians between the ages of 18 and 20 will vote for the first time this weekend, as residents of Johor head to the polls to choose members of the state assembly in a competition which, according to analysts, will likely keep the country’s oldest political coalition in power.
18-20 year olds make up just 6.92% of Johor’s registered electorate, so they will not influence the outcome of Saturday’s election, analysts said. The UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition has an advantage in its stronghold state due to an early split in votes due to a fractured opposition, they said.
Despite the euphoria of people under 21 voting, the total percentage of voters under 25 in Johor is only 17%, said Tunku Mohar Mokhtar, an academic at the International Islamic University Malaysia. .
“They are important, of course, but they alone will not affect the overall results,” he told BenarNews.
And the youth vote, too, will be split between different parties, Mohd. Azizuddin Mohd. Sani, a political analyst and professor at University Utara Malaysia, predicted.
“I suspect all parties can get an equal number of votes from this group,” he told BenarNews.
This means that not everyone will vote for the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance or MUDA – an acronym that literally means ‘youth’. The youth-based party is contesting elections for the first time and is led by Johor-born Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
MUDA is vying for seven seats in the state assembly, in an alliance with the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan, which handed the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party its first defeat in 61 years in a a historic election in 2018.
A total of 239 candidates are running for 56 seats in the state assembly of Johor, Malaysia’s third most populous state.
UMNO, the oldest party in the country, was born in Johor. He controlled the state assembly but wanted to hold elections to make the government more stable, former Johor chief minister Hasni Mohammad claimed after the death of a supporting MP reduced the majority of UMNO has a single seat.
UMNO seen as having an advantage
Analysts see UMNO coming out on top in its stronghold because a divided opposition has resulted in multiple fights in multiple seats, meaning the party’s die-hard supporters will make all the difference to the Barisan coalition it leads.
This time, analyst Mohd Azizuddin cited the example of a fractured opposition between the Warisan party and Bersatu, the party led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
“These parties were part of an opposition coalition…. But now they are fighting against each other as Barisan enjoys strong support from his die-hard voters,” he said.
“The more the opposition parties are divided… it may give Barisan an advantage but there are at least six to eight seats considered gray areas difficult to predict. My conservative assessment is that Barisan wins by simple majority.
Political analyst Mazlan Ali agreed.
He said UMNO would bank on its voters in rural areas and among low-income groups.
“Pakatan Harapan, MUDA and Pejuang [former PM Mahathir Mohamad’s party] can capture a number of seats in urban areas and racially mixed seats,” the political analyst and senior lecturer at the University of Technology Malaysia told BenarNews.
But overall, UMNO and Barisan have an advantage, he said.
Johor had been the stronghold of UMNO for decades before falling to Pakatan Harapan in the 2018 state elections and losing power at the federal level.
But Pakatan now “no longer feels fresh or even united”, according to an analysis by Francis E. Hutchinson and Kevin Zhang, published by ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a Singapore think tank.
“Unlike 2018, Pakatan Harapan looks less cohesive and less appealing to voters. A drop in turnout or loss of vote share to new parties could see the PH lose a significant number of seats,” the analysis says.
Barisan “has an exceptionally strong chance” of doing much better this time around, the analysis authors said.
“If all the winds are in its favor and the BN achieves a two-thirds majority, the pressure for an early national election will be virtually impossible to resist,” according to their analysis.
“However, if the coalition wins more than thirty seats but fails to secure a two-thirds majority, life in Johor will return to its pre-election, COVID-stricken state. There will be little excitement or justification for national elections soon after.
However, some young voters in Johor desperately want change.
“I don’t want seasoned, corrupt leaders,” Priscilla Tan, 25 and a recent graduate, told BenarNews. “Unfortunately, many voters prefer to continue supporting BN, but not me.”
Mashita Raja Mohamad, 35, hoped to see more young candidates elected to represent the younger generation.
“It doesn’t matter which party they are with, but above all they will not move on to other parties after winning the seat,” she told BenarNews.
Meanwhile, V. Navanithan Valayutham, a retiree, was hopeful.
“I look forward to young and dynamic leaders at the head of state. I really love the leaders of MUDA, but I know it is difficult for them to win,” he told BenarNews .
“But it’s not bad for us to hope for the best.”