The Star: Tagging Young Voters In Malaysia

This article was written by Shaila Koshy for The Star and originally published on 16 September 2011 here.

THE young people of Malaysia are taking charge of their future. They’re not waiting for some political party to tell them to register to vote or what is important for them.

They have lined up a series of events to create political awareness among the youth in Malaysia.

Tired of the same-old same-old and unimpressed by the nouveau new, the sisters and brothers are doing it for themselves through UndiMsia!

The name UndiMsia! is simple but clever. The exclamation point makes you want to shout “UndiMsia!” and punch your hand in the air.

On Sept 16, UndiMsia! is serving up “Imagining a Tastier Democracy” at Leonardo’s Wine Loft in Jalan Bangkung, Kuala Lumpur from 7.30pm onwards at RM150 a head to raise funds for its campaign.

If you are prepared to pay up to RM388 to watch your favourite EPL team play football here, the UndiMsia! tickets are a steal considering the dinner, cool performances, a booklet, and free education. Contact [email protected] to book your tickets.

For almost a month, 20 “candidates” for the “Tasty Title” have been on UndiMsia!’s website and Facebook page flogging their “manifesto.” Candidates have been culled along on the way based on the number of “likes” they get. Final votes are cast today, when the winner will be announced.

Born out of a retreat early this year, the group’s 30-odd volunteers now come from all walks of life and are no more just lawyers who wrote for the quirky lawyers’ blawg (blog).

UndiMsia! which says it is a non-partisan campaign is not thinking the next General Election but the long-term. It is targeted at young Malaysians from the age of 18 – 35.

“We are not focusing on youth who are what I term politikosu – those already involved in political activism – but rather those who are not interested to register to vote, not interested in issues or just happy to complain about things on the Internet and do nothing,” says Edmund Bon, of

In the first year, UndiMsia! will focus on three main areas: socio-economic rights (food and housing); civil and political rights (freedom of expression); and understanding the Budget (education).

Tagging itself “Building D-I-Y Action Communities, By Activating the Youth Vote,” UndiMsia! has been moving online and on the ground.

When they hit 500 on their e-group, the UndiMsia! team decided to meet every Saturday at PusatRakyatLB (’s Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights) in Bangsar from 11am to 12pm for greater efficacy.

It is also for UndiMsia! campaigners — largely from middle-class backgrounds — to educate themselves on issues to help them reach out to communities outside their zone.

UndiMsia! shows promise. It’s already eschewed the top-down approach for the reverse.

Instead of telling voters what should be important to them, they’ve gone to the ground – the Hulu Langat parliamentary seat (state constituencies of Kajang, Dusun Tua and Semenyih) provides a good mix of urban and rural, reflects the racial breakdown of the country and provides an large electorate to tap.

They’ve met the people and their representatives, had camps, and are working on how best to educate voters there when their Hulu Langat project is launched later this year.

The next phase promises to be even more exciting as their website will have a profile of wakil rakyats and track their record in fulfilling the campaign pledges.

UndiMsia!’s tongue-in-cheek and “out-of-the-box” strategies have certainly caught the imagination of many young people and “older flers” like me with young hearts.

The Mock Debate at Central Market between Azmyl Yunor of Parti All Night Long and Syahredzan Johan of Lets Go Parti in the by-election for the fictional P223 constituency was a brilliant exercise on the need for voters to understand what they were voting for and why. This should be taken on a roadshow.

For a thought-provoking read — voters, potential Yang Berhormats (YBs), long time YBs and campaign managers – take a look at losing candidate Syahredzan’s journal entries of the event here.

We should all be asking these:

  • Did Syahredzan lose to singer-lecturer and folk hero Azmyl because, although Syahredzan held liberal views and offered liberal policies, he was dressed in full baju melayu?
  • Did those who voted for Syahredzan do so because of his songkok and sampin?
  • Did Azmyl win because of his manifesto or his cool working guy appeal? and
  • Should you vote for a populist manifesto that will surely fail or one that addresses concerns realistically?

If you do, maybe we’ll get more YBs who believe in good governance.

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Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR) is a non-profit based in Kuala Lumpur with the mission of promoting active democratic participation and human rights awareness.

Posted on 21 September 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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