Study shows youths suspicious of Pakatan, Dr M despite voting for them

Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Most youths were found to view Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad negatively due to his political past. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — A research on youth perception of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration found a majority of young Malaysians to be suspicious of the very coalition they voted into power during the May 9 general election.

A common theme found by the study, based on data compiled from focus group discussions held nationwide by think tank, Iman Research, showed most youths viewed Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad negatively due to his political past.

A majority of them also felt PH resembles Barisan Nasional (BN), the coalition it defeated in the elections, in the sense that both groups appeared to be pushing for “identity politics”.

“Some of the major issues that were brought up in lieu with this are trust issues and some skepticism towards the new government,” Iman Research director Badrul Hisham Ismail told a media briefing here today.

“One such reason given was that of previous BN personalities who are now in the PH government,” he added.

Yet the same voters were also aware of the allegations of corruption and power abuse levelled against the previous BN administration helmed by Dr Mahathir, who ruled as Malaysia’s longest-serving premier for 22 years.

A majority of those in the discussions, aged between 21 to 35, said they were cautious about the return of “Mahathirism” and felt the 93-year-old remained very powerful even as PH pledged for reforms to curtail the prime minister’s influence.

“For me, the most troubling issue with PH is when Mahathir decided to speak out, but none of the PH politicians would voice out objections, for example about the third national car,” one interviewee was quoted by the report as saying. 

Most participants also expressed exasperation over the new government’s persistent attack on BN and past policies, and that they are uninterested in the exposes about the previous government.

Instead participants mostly wanted PH to focus on governance and the economy, and a majority of them felt they have yet to see Putrajaya come up with any concrete plan to boost growth, Iman researchers said.

“They feel tired and fatigued,” Vila Somiah, Iman’s head of research, told the press briefing.

“And many also felt there is an absence of a real economic plan or how to create jobs and that’s what they want,” she added.

Employment opportunities was among the most talked about issue in all of the discussions, with most saying they voted PH into power so that the coalition can create more jobs.

Youth and graduate unemployment reached worrying levels as of last year based on Bank Negara Malaysia data and was a major campaign issue during GE14.

PH promised to create a million jobs in five years as part of its election manifesto.

Despite their criticism of Dr Mahathir and other PH leaders (ministers like Maszlee Malik and Syed Saddiq were hammered in the discussions), participants in the discussions said they did not care much about whether or not the coalition fulfilled its 100 day election pledges.

“PH’s 100 day promises meant very little to the majority of our participants, with a number disbelieving most of the promises were actually achievable in such a short period of time,” Badrul said.

“As such, the 100 day promises were not a reason to vote for change.”

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