KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 — When the topic of young political leaders is discussed, Sanna Marin, who became the world’s youngest prime minister after taking the helm of Finland’s new government last December, surely comes to mind.
She was only 34 years old when made prime minister, joining the ranks of New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern (39), Ukraine’s Oleksiy Honcharuk (36), and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un (35) as heads of state in the under 40 age group.
Closer to home, Malaysia did score points when Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, 27 was appointed Youth and Sports Minister in 2018, placing him as the youngest Cabinet minister in Asia then.
Moving forward, Syed Saddiq has now caught the attention of many after announcing his intent to form a new youth-based party to focus on the youth agenda.
Questions, however, have been raised by political observers and analysts on the true objectives of this party, and its potential to attract young voters as this would be the first-ever youth-centric political party to be formed since Malaysia gained independence 63 years ago.
International Islamic University Law lecturer Prof Nik Ahmad Kamal Nik Mahmod said any individual or group who plan to form a new youth-based party should make their mission clear in order to survive the current political landscape.
He opined that the newcomers should be ready to face criticism, rejection and mixed reactions from the battleground including the perception that the party was only adding insult to injury due to ongoing political tussles.
“This is a democratic country. Anyone can form a new party. But time will determine the fate of this party. They need to be relevant and be alert on local issues. Their stand must be clear. That will determine their survival,” he told Bernama.
Nik Ahmad Kamal was commenting on Syed Saddiq’s idea that a youth grouping was timely today so that “politics will never be chained, controlled and monopolised by the same people”.
Meanwhile, geostrategist, Azmi Hassan foresees that Syed Saddiq would desperately need a credible lineup to lead his new battalion in search of ideas to woo young voters and make their political presence felt.
“He must recruit a new breed of young leaders. With brilliant ideas and strategic planning, the party can get attention,” he said.
Federation of Peninsular Malay Students (GPMS) deputy president Syed Mohsen Alkaff raised questions on the future for a youth-centric party once their leaders pass a certain ‘youth age level’.
“What will happen to Syed Saddiq or other members when they reach 30 or 40 years old? Will they abandon the party and form another one? I believe the goals of the party will determine their future,” he said.
Meanwhile, PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said the better solution might be for existing parties to give young people their dues and opportunities as there is always room for improvement and improvisation.
The Environment and Water Minister said PAS and Umno have given chances to their young generals to mix with seasoned and experienced politicians and form a powerful leadership mix.
Barisan Nasional Youth Secretary, Md Fadzmel Md Fadzil drove home the point that young politicians need to blend with their mentors when approaching people of all levels and background.
He said the coalition has realised the need to enhance this relationship in order to make sure they can gain the support and trust of youths.
Meanwhile, Ketari assemblyman Young Syefura Othman, 30 said there is a demand for youth-centric based parties, which she added stemmed from dissatisfaction and disappointment with existing political setups.
“Maybe this new youth party can offer fresh ideas which will be directed towards the betterment of this country. Or maybe they can channel these ideas to the existing parties by joining them in the first place.
“From there, they can make a change and create waves for the younger breed of politicians. Maybe it will take some time but who knows it can change the dynamics and our political landscape,” the DAP Wanita assistant national secretary said. — Bernama