There would be two million Malaysians who would be eligible to vote for the first time in the next elections. This is in addition to the four million eligible voters, many believed to be under 30 years old, who did not register in time for the March 8 polls. We are talking about six million potential voters here. They would likely be opinionated, Internet-savvy and most likely idealistic. And if our older politicians think that this group does not matter and has little interest in politics, then they are in for a big surprise.
To win them over, it means more younger politicians, in their 30s and 40s, would have to be fielded in the next round. These politicians must be able to connect with the young voters and speak their language. In the recent US presidential elections, over 63% of young voters backed Barack Obama. At 47 years old, Obama is their poster boy.
Even before the polls, surveys showed that young Americans between the age of 18 and 29 favour him over John McCain by whopping margins - 59% to 38% according to Gallup polls in October. His staffers were young and familiar with Facebook, Twitter, podcast, video cams and blogging.
Old politicians have always thought that young voters are unrealiable but from the March 8 results, they had better wake up. The BN sent busloads of working, young Kelantanese back to support the BN but they ended up telling their folks to support Pakatan Rakyat. Many also used social networking tools on the Net to support opposition candidates while the BN relied mostly on newspapers and the electronic media.
In the next polls, the old "development funds announcements" formula is as good as dead. Culture wars and petty squabbles, started by the parents and grandparents of these 6 million potential voters, are best put aside if our politician want to connect. Issues of the 50s and 60s do not excite them nor do these issues have any relevance to people in their 20s.
Politicians who are serious of having a line to the young should blog now, not hire someone to start a blog or a web page on the eve of the campaign which contain nothing but press releases. Environment, poverty and conservation may be dismissed by most of our politicians but they better jump on to the bandwagon during early days now if they want to create an identity for themselves.
The mobile phones would also be a powerful tool and clever politicians would be sending regular "personal" political messages to their voters because in the new political landscape, the tools of campaigning have changed.