The research house said that when combined with the 2.58 million registered voters who did not turn up at the 2008 elections, the increase in voters could reach 9.43 million.
The huge increase in new voters was very significant, Nomura said, and likely to intensify competition, given the narrow margin of victory of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in 2008 of a mere 384,688 votes.
“Malaysia is heading into uncharted territory, with the increase in the number of voters at levels that could make the election outcome highly unpredictable,” Nomura said in its report.
It said 3.2 million new voters would boost the total eligible voter pool by 22 per cent, to 17.6 million by 2013, which is when the next general election has to be held.
As at July last year, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) was leading in the voter registration drive, signing up twice the number of voters compared with Barisan Nasional (BN) in the first six months of 2010.
The DAP was also leading in signing up more voters compared with other political parties, registering 32.5 per cent of the new 169,838 voters registered between January and June last year.
Umno followed, registering 32.3 per cent of the new voters, with PAS at 22.7 per cent.
PR was also surprisingly ahead of BN in registering voters in Johor, seen as an Umno stronghold. PR registered almost 60 per cent of the new voters registered by political parties.
But even if PR were to win the popular vote count with the new voters, it does not follow that it would win government.
With the first-past-the-post system that Malaysia practises rather than proportional representation, a party can still win the popular vote but fall short on winning government.
In the 2008 polls, BN obtained 4.1 million votes, or about 51.4 per cent of the total, giving it a 63 per cent share of parliamentary seats.
PR obtained 3.8 million votes — 47.8 per cent of the total — yet gained a disproportionate 37 per cent of the parliamentary seats.
According to the Election Commission, 70 per cent of the 4.3 million unregistered voters are between the ages of 21 and 40, and about 450,000 Malaysians turn 21 each year, the eligible age for voting.
Young people were a key voter segment that swung in favour of the opposition in Election 2008, carrying it to record gains.
PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu said that young voters were more inclined towards change, which would make it more challenging for the incumbent BN, which has been in power since independence in 1957.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, however, has been sending out the message of reform with his administration’s transformation programmes, and has also been wooing the younger electorate with promises of more jobs as well as reaching out to them via new media channels such as Facebook.