FOR a party founded by a septuagenarian and a nonagenarian, Bersatu certainly has a large youth following.
The party, which is turning one this month, already has 200,000 members, 55% of which are young adults.
Bersatu’s biggest draws are its programmes and opportunities for the younger generation, and the charisma of its 92-year-old founder and chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and whom many credit for the country’s development.
Abdul Mutalib Hasan, 26, quit Umno to join Bersatu after he was convinced the party is founded on the fight for truth.
“I was an Umno member before, but now it seems like the party is only helping president Najib Razak and the other leaders.
“The people? The youth? They will court them once every four years,” Mutalib told The Malaysian Insight.
The engineer said the three Ms – Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin, Dr Mahathir, and his son Mukhriz – were also what drew him to the party.
“Mukhriz Mahathir, when he was Kedah menteri besar, actually did his job.
“He had many ideas, like the Kulim International Airport, and more. This is the kind of leader that the younger people need.”
For 34-year-old Muhamad Hanif Abdul Latif, of Kedah, it was the opportunities given to the younger members to speak their minds that attracted him to Bersatu.
“The youth have a chance to be mentored by the senior leaders in Bersatu who have been politicians for a long time,” said the electrical engineer.
Mohd Iqbal Amel Hamzah, 27, said Bersatu was unique in that it was “pure and sincere”.
“Two of Bersatu’s main leaders were removed from the government because they fought for the people,” he said, referring to Muhyiddin and Mukhriz who were lost their party and government posts after criticising prime minister Najib Razak over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal.
“What other reason do I need to join Bersatu?” he said.
Chance to lead
Mohd Ashraf Mustaqim Badrul Munir, 31, left his job as a journalist and photographer to join Bersatu as a full-time working secretary and exco member of Armada, the youth wing of the party.
“In other parties, not many young adults have a chance to sit on the supreme council.
“But in Bersatu, we have a few names – Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman as the youth chief, Ulya Aqamah Husamudin, Mohd Rafiq Naizamohideen and Dr Muhammad Faiz Na’aman – who are below the age of 35,” Ashraf told The Malaysian Insight.
The former Kedah Umno professional bureau member said he believed Umno had lost sight of its struggle and was no longer able to fulfil the needs of the younger generation of voters.
Ashraf said Umno was still standing today only because of the loyalty of the older generation, a situation that he said was not sustainable.
“If it was merely to bring down Najib Razak, Dr Mahathir wouldn’t need to leave Umno. But Dr Mahathir knows Umno can not last for much longer.
“The only thing giving Umno victory are the first and second generation voters; the third and fourth have grown tired of Umno. How much longer can it last?”
For political greenhorn Fatin Fariza Abdul Halim, the opportunity for younger members to rise in rank is what sets Bersatu apart.
The Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) accountancy graduate is the youngest exco member of Srikandi, the women’s wing of Bersatu.
Fatin said, like many young party members, it was the “Dr Mahathir factor” that helped her to decide.
“Tun Mahathir is my idol. Even though I was very young when he was prime minister, I’ve read about him and his history,” she said.
“He is a much-loved statesman. He has led Malaysia from being unknown to being famous throughout the world.”
But she said the main reason for her enthusiasm for Bersatu was the mission to overthrow Najib.
“Undeniably, it is the determination to remove the current prime minister for someone better that is firing up the members of Bersatu.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT