WITH the general election just around the corner, Malaysians are going through a crucial period as politicians on both sides of the divide intensify efforts to win the hearts and minds of voters.

As many as 20% to 30% of Malaysia’s electorate of 14 million people are fence-sitters, according to opinion research firm Merdeka Centre and Invoke, an NGO.

The number of these undecided voters is sizeable enough to determine the next government. So, how should political parties approach them?

The Organisation for National Empowerment (ONE), a non-partisan NGO, has organised various programmes for youths such as Our Future 2057, Pitch for Progress and our signature career development workshop called GROW.

Having run these programmes for the past four years, we know that all young people want a thriving future. And that can only be achieved if everyone moves in cohesion in the same direction – forward.

Development cannot come from negativity. Positive thinking is required to achieve betterment, be it for an individual or an organisation. Collective effort is necessary to secure a positive outcome.

The same applies to nation-building; a negative mindset will only stand between the country and progress.

There can be no women empowerment without a united voice expressing women’s desire for equal treatment and to break the glass ceilings that obstruct them. A start-up cannot triumph if it does not move forward with the ecosystem and innovate.

The world today is evolving rapidly, driven by people who continue to move #Forward­Together from strength to strength.

Freed from political affiliation, undecided voters are more likely to objectively assess their electoral choices.

In making their decisions, they will evaluate the policies, substance, track record and promises of both sides of the political divide – and rightly so.

Undecided voters will be more responsive to candidates who focus on positivity and delivery rather than those who engage in endless debate over trivial politics.

As we edge closer to the elections, it appears that those who play the primary role of convincing people to vote for them are slipping up everywhere we look.

At times, it appears that the adage “Silence is golden” should be applied to politicians who seem committed to making unnecessary remarks and targeting certain individuals.

Ultimately, undecided voters are more likely to be inspired by forward-thinking agendas and reject low-class squabbles. This is something our politicians need to bear in mind.

After Pakatan Harapan recently released its election manifesto, the young voters are looking at the document objectively, studying each point and evaluating its viability.

For example, the promise to reduce the cost of living is spot on. However, abolishing the Goods and Services Tax in favour of the outdated Sales and Service Tax appears questionable, when 160 countries have adopted the former and ended the latter due to its many flaws and lack of transparency.

Voters must ask whether the manifesto has the right prescriptions for the long term. When proposing policies, those running for office must be forward-thinking and not settle for something merely for short-term political gain.

ONE’s #ForwardTogether campaign started off as an initiative to ensure that people go out to vote, but we have realised that being #ForwardTogether is in fact more than that.

It is a collective effort that applies to every aspect of nation-building, including voting. As such, it cannot be achieved if we as individuals do not work for the future that we wish for. That is our calling.

In this election, be judgmental but fair. In moving forward, we must be objective with our choices during elections. Do not vote with a negative mindset, that is, because you hate the other side.

Vote because you truly believe that the candidate you are voting for is the one that can bring about a brighter future.

GE14 is only the first step in ensuring that as many people as possible come out to vote and make their voices heard. Beyond that, we must not let go of the notion of moving #ForwardTogether.

We must apply it to what we believe in so that we can achieve all that we can, together.

Originally published on The Star on Saturday March 17, 2018.