Voter apathy among the youth

09 September 2019 | Columns

Voter registration in Namibia is an independent responsibility, so citizens choose whether they want to register or not.

Without any doubt, this will lead to less people within the voting age population being registered to vote in the upcoming general election slated for November 2019.

While elections are an occasion for people to have a say on how they are governed and who will hold political power, voter apathy is a growing concern, especially among young people. Given their large numbers, when young people vote, they can decide the outcome of elections. If the low voter turnout of the recently concluded Ondangwa Urban constituency and Oshakati East constituency by-elections is anything to go by, we should really be worried. There are several reasons why younger people tend to be underrepresented at the polls. One, ironically, is their frustration over serious problems that may be affecting our country. The greatest challenge that human beings face the world over is the inability to change the past, hence liberation credibility will no longer be used by any political establishment as a yardstick to lure people to participate in elections. If you are a young person in many places across Africa, including Namibia, you are coming of age in an environment where you see corruption and corrupt leaders being glorified, your tax money being invested, yet there are no returns on the investment made, the education system falling apart, yet we shamelessly defend it and a depressed economy, yet we politicise its status. The heinousness of the task of changing the environment is something that drives voter apathy.

In light of the above, the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has an essential role to play in creating awareness and enthusiasm about the upcoming polls. Voter education may be the best solution for apathy, because it helps people to understand that while countrywide problems need to be dealt with, participation in local elections is one way of taking action to fix the situation in their own localities. It is, however, disheartening that local authorities in Namibia have become synonymous with unending squabbles. Over the years this infighting has culminated in so-called defiant councillors being recalled, and at times suspended, by those in the upper echelons of their respective parties. We are reminded of unpopular political developments at the Rundu town council and Okahandja municipality, to mention a few.

If one was to carry out a survey on the perception of the state of public accountability, you would expect the results to show a citizenry who have lost trust in public office-bearers and public institutions. The private sector is not exempted either.

To be truly devoted to our motherland, we need to be change agents. We need to demonstrate love towards our country and all its people. We need to demand the highest standards for our country and accept nothing less from its people. Therefore, it is not enough to vote. We have a broader civic consciousness to hold elected officials accountable. We have an obligation to influence them by offering suggestions. After all, patriotic leadership is demonstrated when you have solutions.

In conclusion, over 50% of our total population is comprised of young people whose financial troubles have not been satisfactory addressed. Our failure as a nation to address their demands for jobs, better education and other empowerment opportunities will continue to be a recipe for voter apathy.

Kauhakanua Martin Mbambus

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