Eyeing the UMNO Polls from LAVANYA LINGAN AND RAHMAT KHAIRUL RIJAL's writings
'Seniors' likely to be kingmakers
TREND: They are most likely to vote in leaders who have been around for a long time and contributed to party
KUALA LUMPUR: KEEN students of voting trends will see a clear age segmentation within Umno's bank of voters as the party's estimated 146,500 members decide who gets to be in the top party leadership.
These voters from the 20,800 Umno branches nationwide will also vote in 191 leaders to lead their divisions.
A quick look at half of the incumbent divisional chiefs shows that the majority of the leaders fall in the "above 55" age bracket, with many more, over 60 years of age.
Those under 50 make up no more than 14 leaders.
The Umno supreme council is also looking at a sizeable number of contenders who are in the "senior" age bracket.
While there are 17 who are above 60, the majority of those in the 50 to 60 bracket are above 55.
Of the 62 contenders, only 14 are between 40 and 50 years old, with Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin and Datuk Reezal Merican Naina Merican both being the youngest at 41.
At the branches, those with voting rights are its chairman, Wanita, Youth and Puteri heads. The chairmen, most of whom are in the "senior" age group get to decide who should be given the privilege of filling up the three other spots.
Seasoned political observers would attest that while these chairmen would exercise this right in all fairness, they would be inclined to pick candidates who had been around long enough.
Of the seven voters from each branch, at least two, the Youth and Puteri representatives, will be below 40. A rough estimate of the number of voters in this age group is 41,600.
Female voters would make up at least 28 per cent of the total number of voters, but half of them are those above 40.
"The bulk of the ballot papers will likely go to seasoned Umno candidates. While the number of voters in the younger age bracket is significant, the seasoned members in the vote bank are in fact the kingmakers.
"Aside from the clear criteria like track record and other considerations, their votes could be swayed by sentiments," one said, adding that it was inevitable that seniors among the voters would also look at a candidate's pedigree, lineage and history.
One political analyst said there was no empirical evidence to suggest a correlation between young voters' age and their voting patterns.
"The idea that young voters would lend their support to young candidates could be flawed.
"Being able to relate to those in a relatively similar age bracket does not mean that they would hand them their vote," he said.
Prof Datuk Dr Zainal Kling, however, believes that it is only natural for younger voters to pick younger leaders to helm top party posts.
He said Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, an Umno vice-president hopeful, connected better with Youth and Puteri members than his five other contenders.
It is estimated that 30 per cent of the delegates who would be voting in the Umno vice-presidents and 25 supreme council members today, are older than 40.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Associate Professor Dr Samsul Adabi Mamat said junior Umno members would want more young leaders in the party leadership so as to effect the kind of change they expected.
"Young voters want a change in how the party operates. They want a fresh outlook for Umno.
"Because of this, they feel that a leader like Mukhriz, who is 48, will be able to meet their expectations."
Samsul also said he believed that more senior party members would vote based on loyalty.
"They are loyal to candidates who are more senior and have contributed to the party."