Rivals eye Saddiq’s post but youth appeal may triumph, say analysts

Syed Saddiq in January with members of the ride-sharing group Dego Ride, one of the initiatives aimed largely at the youth.

PETALING JAYA: At least two challengers are vying to head PPBM Youth, but it is likely the incumbent leader, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, will retain his position, although he has his work cut out for him, according to political observers.

The challenge is expected to come from fellow party leaders, including a member of the PPBM Youth executive committee.

However, anyone taking on Syed Saddiq faces an uphill challenge: he has made the most of his time as PPBM Youth leader and as Youth and Sports minister, according to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia analyst Azmi Hassan.

Among his achievements was the successful Undi 18 initiative to lower the voting age to 18, the push for developing e-Sports, introduction of paid internships, and opening up the “gig economy” of part-timers and freelance workers.

The RM6 billion [email protected] programme, to create some 300,000 jobs for youths, is another key policy he has advanced.

Azmi adds Syed Saddiq’s 2.2 million strong following on Instagram and Facebook would also give him an advantage.

“Perception plays a critical role here and the perception is that Syed Saddiq and young people are inseparable,” he told FMT. It was also not in PPBM’s interest for Syed Saddiq to be replaced as the party needs stability.

“Saddiq is a fresh face in politics, and he can use this advantage to show he is not the typical Malaysian politician. He hasn’t made the most of it so far. What is obvious is that he needs an experienced adviser because he has made some missteps,” Azmi said.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) political analyst Lee Kuok Tiung does not see anyone posing a real threat to Syed Saddiq.

Lee said Syed Saddiq’s policy initiatives, particularly Undi 18, gave him a strong footing.

“It’s not an easy task for someone new or unknown to challenge a person like Syed Saddiq who is well known among the party’s hierarchy; more so, he is an MP and federal minister.”

A senior PPBM figure contends that it was not enough for Syed Saddiq to have pushed the youth agenda.

“In Malay politics, there is a time for everything, Syed Saddiq may mean well but sometimes comes across as being raw and too reactive,” said the leader who declined to be named.

“For example, he took a swipe at Pakatan Harapan leaders over the infighting about the transfer of power from Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Anwar Ibrahim. He should have used a more calm and composed tone.”

Syed Saddiq’s age, and the perception that he is an elitist, would have also worked against him, the official said. Given Syed Saddiq’s multiple roles in public life as the youth and sports minister, PPBM Youth chief and PH Youth chief, he needs a clear communications plan and narrative, the party insider said.

However, the lower voting age would bring into play nearly 4 million eligible voters born after 1995, members of a generation more likely to look up to Syed Saddiq.

“He probably has the most clout and advantage to win them over compared to other politicians who are far older. If Saddiq can spread his influence there, he will be unstoppable, as any party that wishes to win support from this generation, will need Saddiq on their side,” the party insider said.