The change Muda makes must transcend all demographics


The change Muda makes must transcend all demographics
By Zan Azlee

Muda is that new party that everyone was and is talking about. I am excited about Muda and its entry into the Malaysian political scene. Their disruptive attitude is exactly what we need for a shift in how politics works in Malaysia. Fresh ideas and new methods will also be able to pull in new voters.

In line with the implementation of Undi18, there has been a surge in new voters between the ages of 18 and 21. This isn’t a group that will be enticed by the old style of politicking, governance and persuasion. This group isn’t going to be starstruck by politicians and kowtow to them because they know full well that they serve the rakyat.

The boomers criticising Muda and their candidates saying that they lack experience and not doing things the way they should be done do not understand the change and transition that is happening. The old guard will slowly become irrelevant as the new guard begins their takeover. Viva la revolution!

With that being said, Muda still needs to be aware of the fact that to win, they need to appeal to all voters and not just the youth. They must know the sentiments on the ground and offer the locals what they need. It isn’t all just about social media trends, hashtags, likes and shares. It’s real-life here.

Being on the ground in Simpang Renggam, I managed to catch a little bit of a glimpse of Muda’s operations. A lack of optics and visuals is one obvious observation. We don’t see who the candidate in the area is and what the person’s name is. We only start to notice who the candidate contesting is in the last few days of campaigning.

Amira Aisya the Muda candidate at Puteri Wangsa

This perception isn’t just reflected in my personal observation, but it seems to be what is felt on the ground too. Through my chats with people, none of them knows who the Muda candidate in the area is and they’re not even concerned about finding out. They just consider it insignificant.

On the last day of the campaign, I see a handful of Muda members or supporters going around in a pickup truck holding up manila card placards with slogans. They were hardly attracting anyone. I would think that a 60-year-old makcik and a 70-year-old pakcik is going to find a bunch of 20-year-olds in t-shirt and jeans relatable.

I don’t want to be ageist but I think that my point is quite valid. I do realise that the effect is vice versa also. A 70 year-old politician from the old school politics isn’t going to appeal to the 18 to 21-year-old hipsters. That’s why it is important for politicians, young or old, to make an effort to know their constituents and learn how to address their concerns.

We know that Muda is popular on social media and with the urban crowd. But will that translate into votes when it comes to local politics in small rural and semi-rural towns? How big is the urban population that supports Muda to give them an opportunity? I doubt it is very big (or big enough!).

Don’t get me wrong, I am in full support of Muda and hope for their success. As I said, I really believe that they are the disruptive force that Malaysia needs. But they can’t come in too aggressively and not expect at least a little bit of pushback or backlash. To make inroads, they have to find a balance.

A Muda ceramah in Larkin before the elections in Johor

I understand that Muda won’t immediately become a strong party and a major contender. The lack of experience and naivety will mean that they still have a lot to learn before they get there. But those same reasons are also what makes them valuable. We need their idealism, vigour, energy and passion.

All I am saying is that they cannot carry the same narrative and message if they want to contest and represent the whole of Malaysia. If that is the case, they should only stick to contesting in areas where their ideal voter demographics exist. And for now, there isn’t that many. Most constituencies are still quite mixed in.

It will take a while. Muda will probably come of age in another one or two general elections. But in the meantime, they need to put in place the right building blocks. Yes, the youth are the ones who should lead and make a difference. But we must also convince the boomers that the youth know what they are doing. The change that Muda makes should be inclusive and transcend all demographics.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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