KUALA LUMPUR – Voters will be looking to the quality of candidates fielded during the next general elections as many have lost trust in the political parties, analysts suggested following a recent survey suggesting a shift towards preferring candidates over parties.

Universiti Utara Malaysia associate professor Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said unlike in the previous general elections, the antics of political parties from both sides of the divide in recent years has eroded support from voters.

“This happens because many distrust political parties, unlike in previous election. Therefore they will vote for candidates,” Azizuddin told Malay Mail when contacted.

Azizuddin even went as far as suggesting that the continuation of this trend will probably mean a higher winning rate for independent candidates who are able to present themselves well.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Sivamurugan Pandian added the voter base for the next general elections would be made up of educated first time voters who are non-partisan towards any party so candidate selection would be the biggest determining factor.

“Most of the young or first time voters tend to become party-less and don’t attach themselves with parties ideologies. Therefore, candidate selection plays a pivotal role in the voting pattern for GE14 as well,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

Meanwhile, political analyst Oh Ei Sun said compared to traditional voters, the determining group of voters in the next elections would be the youth and those below the age of 35-years-old.

The adjunct senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies suggested that Barisan Nasional (BN) might actually surprise its voter base by fielding more relatable and new-school candidates ― such as Khairy Jamaluddin ― among their ranks.

“Do not underestimate BN’s ability to attract seemingly presentable candidates. Look at those around Khairy and TN50,” he said referring to Putrajaya’s Transformasi Nasional 2050 blueprint.

Azizuddin also echoed his sentiment claiming if BN lives up to the coalition’s promise of fielding more women and youth candidates, they might have a higher winning chance in the next polls.

“I think BN will have the better one if they really commit in giving 30 per cent each to women and youth the candidacy,” he said.

Independent analyst Khoo Kay Peng however said that partisanship among older voters was still very strong but for younger voters, key elements like education and access to information has changed the way they think.

“I believe partisanship is still very strong. Fence-sitters have always hovered between 20 to 30 per cent but better education and access to info could shift focus to quality of candidates,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

He also said compared to traditional politicians, the new era of politicians should not only have a presence in their constituencies but also an online presence.

A recent survey by International Islamic University Malaysia’s professor Datuk Syed Arabi Abdullah Idid found that nearly half of over 1,000 Malaysians polled believed that the choice of candidates would influence who they voted for more than political parties.

Despite the shift, however, the majority of respondents still would vote along party lines, with the only major exceptions being Malay and Bumiputera voters, those younger than 35, and fence-sitters.

– Malay Mail