Youth vote not crit­i­cal to poll out­come, say ex­perts

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - NOLOYISO MTEMBU

AN­A­LYSTS have warned there’s no telling the ex­tent to which the youth vote will make a dif­fer­ence to the out­come in the up­com­ing mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions.

And that’s be­cause mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions are lo­cal in na­ture and the re­sults pri­mar­ily lim­ited to the lo­cal­ity in which a vote is cast.

Pro­fes­sor Cher­rel Africa, se­nior po­lit­i­cal sci­ence lec­turer at the Univer­sity of the Western Cape, be­lieves it’s un­likely the youth vote will play a sig­nif­i­cant role.

“They are spread through­out the coun­try so we will not see an ef­fect in par­tic­u­lar wards or re­gions.

“Their po­lit­i­cal so­cial­i­sa­tion and life ex­pe­ri­ences may dif­fer sharply from each other. Even if they were con­cen­trated in a par­tic­u­lar area, they would still be un­likely to vote as a bloc.”

Ac­cord­ing to voter reg­is­tra­tion, about 547 000 peo­ple aged between 18 and 19 have reg­is­tered to vote na­tion­ally. The num­ber is just more than 49 000 in the Western Cape.

In the age group 20 to 29, about 552 000 peo­ple have reg­is­tered to vote in the prov­ince, com­pared to 5.8 mil­lion coun­try­wide.

Africa said it was im­por­tant for the youth to cast their bal­lot. “It is im­por­tant for peo­ple to re­main en­gaged both at elec­tion time and between elec­tions, even if they feel dis­il­lu­sioned.

“Young peo­ple should be en­gaged in demo­cratic pro­cesses and not sim­ply see elec­tions as ‘one of those things’. Not only is vot­ing an im­por­tant act of cit­i­zen­ship, it is im­por­tant to vote be­cause many peo­ple paid a high price, some with their lives so that we could move from au­thor­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety into a more hu­mane and demo­cratic one.”

Her views were echoed by Pro­fes­sor Er­win Sch­wella of the School of Pub­lic Lead­er­ship at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity.

“The youth are af­fected by many so­cio-eco­nomic is­sues and so it is ex­tremely im­por­tant that they take part,” he said.

Sch­wella sug­gested some young peo­ple may be dis­cour­aged from vot- ing thanks to un­eth­i­cal gov­er­nance and in­ef­fi­cien­cies they wit­ness in their ev­ery­day life. Not see­ing progress or los­ing hope in th­ese ar­eas would af­fect young peo­ple’s level of par­tic­i­pa­tion, Sch­wella added.

Africa said vot­ers’ per­cep­tions were shaped by their past ex­pe­ri­ences, vot­ing his­tory and in­for­ma­tional net­works, along with eval­u­a­tions of party lead­er­ship and can­di­dates.

“Many in this age cat­e­gory may have been in­flu­enced by the stu­dent move­ments and protests of last year. That does not mean that any par­tic­u­lar party would ben­e­fit from that in­flu­ence, but per­haps, though not nec­es­sar­ily, they may be more mo­ti­vated to cast their bal­lot,” she said.

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