Webinar on “Young Voters and Malaysia’s Future: New Hope or False Dawn?”

In this webinar, Dato’ Sri Ti Lian Ker and Mr Jason Wee talked about the perspective of Malaysia’s current administration’s youth engagement and the findings of the nationwide Youth Aspiration Manifesto Survey.


Friday, 7 September 2022 – The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute hosted Dato’ Sri Ti Lian Ker and Mr Jason Wee for a webinar titled “Young Voters and Malaysia’s Future: New Hope or False Dawn?”. Dato’ Sri Ti is Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports and a Senator in the Dewan Negara (Upper House).  He has been Vice-President of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) since 2018, and also chairs MCA’s Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research (INSAP). Mr Wee is co-founder of Architects of Diversity Malaysia, a non-profit that aims to bridge communities and identity groups among youth for justice, peace and a sustainable future.

Clockwise from top left: Mr Jason Wee, Dr Lee Hwok Aun (moderator), and Dato’ Sri Ti Lian Ker. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dato’ Sri Ti began his presentation with an overview of the electoral scene in Malaysia following the implementation of Undi18. Compared to the 2018 General Election, the size of the electorate has grown by 30 to 50 per cent depending on the constituency. Nonetheless, Dato’ Sri Li opined that political literacy remains low among Malaysians with the bulk of the electorate possessing only a vague understanding about political parties. As previously unregistered voters above the age of 21 are now automatically included in the electoral roll, Dato’ Sri Li expected this group to possess similar – if not lower – levels of political literacy compared to the average electorate. He argued that sentiments are therefore a key driver in shaping the outcome of electoral contests.

Dato’ Sri Li explained that the Pakatan Harapan coalition won the 2018 General Election due to populist promises – which the PH administration eventually failed to deliver. Dato’ Sri Li explained that public education is required to spur the electorate to critically access and evaluate political parties, instead of being easily swayed by populist sentiments. He added that the Ministry of Youth and Sports has organized programs to increase political literacy among youths in light of the Undi18 constitutional amendment.

Mr Wee started his segment by framing youth apathy within the present political climate. He conceded that Malaysian youths are generally portrayed in the media as politically apathetic. Nonetheless, he argued that the absence of credible alternative parties may be a crucial reason for the perceived apathy. Mr Wee shared the findings of the Youth Aspiration Manifesto survey, with 80 per cent of (youth) respondents indicating an interest to cast their vote in the upcoming general election. Nonetheless, 40 per cent of respondents remained undecided about their preferred choice. Despite numerous political parties contesting in recent polls, the high percentage of undecided youths suggests that none of the existing options are sufficiently attractive for Malaysian youths. Mr Wee added that the share of undecided voters is higher among ethnic Chinese and female youths. Based on the survey, the top three concerns among Malaysian youths – regardless of political leanings – are minimum wage, affordable homes and healthcare budget. Mr Wee concluded that each political party needs to demonstrate how it differs from others in addressing these salient concerns, in order to capture the imagination of Malaysian youths.

In the question-and-answer session, questions raised include the high percentage of political apathy among Malaysian Chinese and females, presence of young candidates in MCA, racial politics, and the first-past-the-post system and its impacts on newer parties.

The webinar attracted 67 participants. Dr Lee Hwok Aun, Senior Fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, moderated the webinar.