SECTIONS

Eight reasons why youths are not keen to take part in polls

Kenyans queue to cast their votes in the previous election. [File, Standard]

The Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has finally published the audited 2022 General Election register.

Based on the commission's records, 22,120,458 Kenyans are eligible to participate in the forthcoming elections. IEBC had targeted to have 27,857,598 registered voters. The number of persons with identity cards (ID) stands at 29,566,678, according to the National Registration Bureau.  

In the 2017 General Election, there were 19,611,423 registered voters. But in the five years from 2017, the commission managed to register an additional 2,509,035 Kenyans, translating to an increase of 13 per cent. In the electoral cycle 2013 to 2017, IEBC data indicates there were 14,352,533 registered voters.

The analysis of the 2022 poll register reveals the number of enrolled women is 10,865,569, representing 49.12 per cent of the total registered voters while that of men is 11,254,889, representing 50.88 per cent.

In the other demographics, the number of youths between the ages of 18 to 34 years, registered to vote are 8,812,790, representing 39.84 per cent of the voters. This is a decline of 5.27 per cent when compared to 2017.

When scrutinised further, the analysis of youth enrolment statistics shows the number of registered female youth voters has declined by 7.75 per cent between 2017 to 2022 while male youth enrolment has declined by 2.89 per cent.

To unpack this anomaly, it is important to interrogate the reason behind the above scenario. In particular, why are the youth disengaged from the political leadership, yet the decisions made by leaders affect each and every one of them?

Based on the 2019 census, the youth constitute the majority in our country. However, when it comes to electoral processes, the opposite is the case as demonstrated by the commission's statistics.

The question to all stakeholders is why the dismal numbers despite the youth being the fastest growing demographic?

Status quo

Several factors could be attributed to this apathy. An interrogation of a number of them could perhaps help inform future public discourse.

First, the elections are about changing the status quo. The youth appear not to appreciate that this can occur through the electoral process, hence their disconnect from the exercise.

Second, the issues affecting the youths, key among them lack of job opportunities, are only mentioned at election time and forgotten thereafter.

Third, the leaders among the youths who have been elected seem to forget youth issues once elected. Several examples can be enumerated.

Fourth, the issues of integrity among candidates are sensitive to the youth. To make matters worse, the responsible agencies hardly take any action to address these issues.

Fifth, whereas youths work hard to acquire a decent education, the allegation that politicians are buying their academic papers to be eligible for certain positions hardly inspire the youth.

Sixth, in certain parts of this country, acquiring an ID cards is a herculean task. This important document is key in registering to participate in the electoral process. Without it, one is effectively disenfranchised.

Seven, the voter education programmes are targeted at the elderly who are already sensitised, leaving out the critical youth constituency.

Eight, the electoral management body in its public pronouncements hardly inspires confidence. It fails to clear the air when controversial issues like the use of electronic and manual election register are raised.

There is need to interrogate this apathy among the youths further. Meanwhile it is important for curriculum developers to develop a civic, voter and political education programme to be taught from primary school all the way to the tertiary institutions.

Mr Gitu is a governance and leadership advisor. [email protected]