UMNO and especially the new UMNO Youth Chief will be expected to get things going by the time inauguration is complete. The new task: to woo 2,000,000 new young voters for the next general election. This will be the clincher whether Barisan Nasional remains in power or gets displaced by Anwar Ibrahim's Pakatan Rakyat.
It is widely known that Pakatan Rakyat fronts young leaders in the last general election and their gamble worked as planned (or perhaps by shear luck). Whether it was utter disgust of Barisan Nasional or strong support for Pakatan Rakyat, clearly the young voters heavily influenced by the internet have rejected Barisan Nasional. Even an amateur who made a famous video recording became a Yang Berhormat. BN was nearly wiped out in Wilayah, Setiawangsa was almost lost. I have yet to see massive efforts to embrace the young voters.
The backbone of Barisan Nasional is UMNO. UMNO Youth is effectivley responsible to woo these new voters. Youngsters everywhere are watching the UMNO Youth contest closely. Who becomes the next UMNO Youth Chief and what he does for the rest of the term will strongly determine where those 2 million votes would go to.
1. Young voters are better trained to reason and rationalize facts and figures, whether from mainstream media, internet or other periodicals and books. The main issues they care about are cost of living in the city, crime rate, public transportation network and reinvigorating the local economy. They are not happy when silly explanations given to them. They want hard facts and they expect progress, excellent service and prompt response from YBs. Internal issues should be dealt swiftly and accordingly to avoid Pakatan Rakyat from exploiting it. Dato' Seri Najib must be stern and decisive.
2. The membership process into political parties must be revamped or BN will face a further reduction in support in the next general election. It's always important to increase membership and renew the party with young blood. The party should be an efficient factory to produce future machinery, party workers, leaders and supporters. It's also an effective way to make the bad apples the minority in the party, not the majority. Unfortunately, bright young professionals get exasperated when their membership application take months to process. Some forms are conveniently 'misplaced'. It is unfortunate when UMNO members feel they are threatened when they see more competent people trying to join the party.
3. Pakatan Rakyat will continue to field young professionals and corporate figures in the urban area and attract the young voters to them. Barisan Nasional must front more credible candidates and not re-activate retired veterans. Politicians who have been stagnant and not delivering solid results should be cut loose. Dato' Seri Najib must recognize that the choice of candidate is extremely crucial in the next general election given the extent of the damage in the last one.
4. The more rampant discussion among youngsters is that the depth of quality leadership has seemed to be depleted. The normal comment from youngsters is "tak de orang lain ke??". Even Tan Sri Sanusi Junid had admitted earlier that UMNO has failed to train her youngsters for future transitions (pelapis). Let's emphasize quality here, not quantity. We have heaps of young leaders in UMNO Youth out there but I really don't think the general population of young Malaysian adults look up to them (the good ones are usually unknown to the general public unless you are a keen follower of local politics). Point 2 would address this issue.
Young leaders find it exasperating to be promoted in UMNO as seniority and experience still play a major role for ascension.
5. Rebranding of UMNO is in order, as mentioned earlier by DS Najib. Effective rebranding could only work with more capable faces in UMNO and Barisan Nasional, not those caught with money at airports, can't even speak in English and don't have time to visit their Divisions because they're busy. Rebranding could be done through social programs and sporting events, not just programs to cater for UMNO members.
6. For young people not in urban area, they would be more interested in tertiary education, career exposures and business opportunities. Unemployment is still increasing due to lack of skills. These issues must be addressed. UMNO should organize for career fairs, business forums and create opportunities for young entrepreneurs (not just cronies). Results must be shown.
7. Embracing mat rempits is acceptable but not to glorify them, strictly to indoctrinate discipline and work ethics with job offers as rewards (or a boot camp for delinquents), not to give media publicity. Future program must be carefully thought through and scrutinized to avoid another backfire.
8. Campaigning for SPR registration should commence immediately, not 2 months before the general election.
9. The internet media must not be underestimated again. Issues must be addressed and clarified better. Press secretaries to Ministers must be able to setup blogs and explain issues on behalf of their bosses regularly, not busy looking for projects.
If BN uses the same strategy, it will get the same result. That's inevitable. However, UMNO is a gigantic machinery. It will adhere to traditions and execute the way they've been doing business for the last 60-odd years. Changes will come but not dramatically as we want. We just hope it's not too late.
My earlier notes on young voters:
Extensive work ahead
What can we do