Sarawak Election: Young Voters Want Responsible, Caring And Approachable Reps



KUCHING, May 3 – Young voters in Sarawak prefer elected representatives who are responsible, caring and approachable. Sharifah Hafizah Wan Saadi, 30, who will be casting her ballot in the Kota Sentosa seat in the state election this Saturday, said the ability of a candidate to discharge his or her responibilities as an assemblyman was her main yardstick in making her choice. She is among 368,944 voters below the age of 40 who will be voting in the election this time.

She said perhaps others look at the candidate’s charisma but I am looking for credibility. She said the candidate of her choice must pay heed to the voices of the youth like her, apart from being able to discuss issues, was always ready to go down to the ground and had the capability to create opportunities for youths to progress. As for civil servant Ray Henen Gaeng, 27, who will be voting in Serembu, for him a candidate who is ethical and cared for the people is very important.

He said don’t just put on a show during election time. He also added that the age factor was not important to him. Ray said since Nomination on May 25, he had been approached by the candidates contesting the seat but he had made his choice. Consultant Julia Empari, 26, who will be voting in Mambong, said for her it did not matter which party the candidate came from but ” must be brave enough to speak up in the interest of the people and not just be a “Yes man”.”

She said information she obtained from social media also influenced her on evaluating the candidates who will be contesting the seat. She said the candidates this time around cannot understimate the role social media plays in promoting themselves while campaigning.

Political analyst Assoc Prof Dr Jeniri Amir said a study by the National Professors Council found that a candidate’s personality, qualifications and capabilities were among the factors deemed important by young voters, whether in urban or rural areas. The senior lecturer at the Social Sciences Faculty, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), said they placed importance on candidates who could deliver on their promises and understood the aspirations of young voters.

“They (assemblymen) must be able to draw up and execute plans that benefit the people, he said, adding that the charisma possesed by Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem had become the benchmark for young voters. He said based on his observation, Adenan’s “easy going but I mean business” nature had attracted more young voters to the Barisan Nasional as compared to

Jeniri said social media which has been used by Adenan as a platform to approach young voters had been effective in enabling the number one leader of Sarawak to gain useful inputs from this group.

He said they are talking based on facts and not perception. he said he once monitored Adenan’s Facebook account for one night and found Adenan obtained more than 100 positive comments in the space of just seven minutes. In the study, Jeniri said young voters also wanted candidates who could play a check and balance role on the party which formed the government.

“This group of young voters comprised those who lived in urban areas, who still favoured the opposition’s role in looking after the interests of the people by evaluating the plans drawn up by the goverrnmen for the people. Based on my study, support from young voters in urban areas for Sarawak BN in the 2011 state election was between 35 and 50 per cent only but this time I expect a slight increase,” he added.

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