Of the total 104.4 million people set to vote in the December 30 election, 42 million are considered young, aged from 18-35 years old
A total 12.1 million new voters registered for the 11th general election will play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the polls, according to report recently published by Dhaka University’s Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS).
This fresh voting population has significant influence on both future trends and attitudes towards the nature of politics, the report said.
The CGS Peace Report was prepared by the Bangladesh Peace Observatory (BPO). The BPO Advisory Board includes the Stop Violence Coalition, Bangladesh Police, National Defence College (NDC), ActionAid, Society for Environmental and Human Development, and English newspaper the Daily Star.
Of the total 104.4 million people set to vote in the December 30 election, 42 million are considered young, aged from 18-35 years old. If the age bracket is expanded to 18-40, then over half the voters in the polls would fall under the category, the report said.
As a result of this large contingent of young voters and voters taking part in an election for the first time, as well as because of a number of recent socio-political movements by the youth, political parties are emphasizing youth-centric policies in election manifestos, it added.
In order to learn the perspectives of young voters on a number of issues, a CGS research team conducted a focus group discussion with DU students from various walks of life.
The discussion centred on the young voters’ willingness to participate in the voting process, their views on electoral candidates, and current political trends in Bangladesh.
Will the young actually vote?
A lack of convenience, concerns over security, and shaky confidence in the legitimacy of the electoral process demotivate many young voters from exercising their franchise.
Many young voters pursue higher studies at universities far away from their designated voting centres, and cannot vote as it would be too time consuming for them to travel, the report said.
Furthermore, assurances of security do little to ease concerns of young voters, with many of them saying they fear life-threatening incidents of violence at polling centres.
Participants of the focus group also said incidents of vote rigging led them to see constitutional institutions as unreliable.
The report added that a fraction of young voters are eager to vote, but most of these voters participate in student politics and their enthusiasm is politically motivated.
The youths’ perception of electoral candidates
The CGS Peace Report found new and young voters are more likely to assess electoral candidates by their actions, rather than by electoral symbols and party legacy.
A number of participants in the focus group said they gave preference to the efficiency with which candidates implemented electoral commitments, adding that they favour younger candidates on the belief that they will perform their duties with greater energy and enthusiasm.
However, young voters from rural areas were found to have a different set of preferences. Many of these voters come from families that have supported the same party for generations, and they rarely go against the family choice.
The report also said the views of politicians on the recent road safety and quota reform movements will play a vital role in determining who gets the youth vote.