It was during Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s infamous BBC television interview in 2011 that he revealed where he believed youth could best serve his political ambitions. Anwar spoke of the need for a “Malaysian Spring”, on the back of the Arab Spring that was sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. It left thousands of young people dead.
The very idea that chaos and disorder could deliver him to power is indefensible, but that wasn’t the end of this strategy. Next up, various Pakatan politicians and their media friends started floating the idea that BN wouldn’t give up power in case of a Pakatan GE13 victory, therefore young people must effect regime change.
As Malaysiakini said last year: “As with any other third world country, the only way regime change is possible in Malaysia is through mass demonstrations, similar to how Suharto and Marcos were toppled”.
And to remind ourselves just how much this strategy was part of Anwar’s plans, we also had the Bersih 3.0 rally where Anwar and Azmin Ali allegedly encouraged supporters over the barricades (yes, young people again) and into an unnecessary confrontation with police.
That’s Anwar’s idea of a “youth movement”.
The irony of this strategy is that while he was revving up one key demographic to do his bidding on the street (young first time voters), he was actually alienating another key group.
Undecided Chinese voters, in particular older, prosperous, hard-working Chinese voters who were appalled by the idea of anarchy in this nation. These are people with a lot to lose from a break down in law and order and no, they don’t buy the ludicrous suggestion that Datuk Seri Najib Razak is somehow on the same level as Suharto and Marcos.
With more than three million first time voters at GE13 (not all of them youth, but most) and a mean age in this country of 27, this will be the youth election. But how little the Prime Minister has altered his language and his vision for the nation to cater for this youth poll, is telling indeed.
Of course he has made sure training, tertiary education and jobs are a priority in the BN manifesto, but as The Choice has already mentioned, he has also made sure he doesn’t patronise young voters by pretending that the same issues aren’t as important to them as they are to their parents.
A robust economy matters to everyone, young and old. Attaining high income developed nation status by the year 2020 also matters to young voters who will by then be buying homes, having children and wondering what sort of Malaysia their offspring will inherit.
Not one where political leaders call for a “Malaysian Spring”, that’s for sure.