What you need to know:
- Major political parties have put in place different strategies to earn the trust of the youth, who account for more than a third of the 23 million voters that will decide the fate of the nation.
All indications are that millions of young voters, those 18 to 22, will line up in the 2022 General Election, making this a critical constituency that could decide the outcome of the presidential race.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) targets six million youths in a mass voter registration drive next month as preparations for the polls gather momentum.
Major political parties have put in place different strategies to earn the trust of the youth, who account for more than a third of the 23 million voters that will decide the fate of the nation.
Political analysts believe young voters will tilt the scales in what is expected to be a competitive election, given that the country will be picking a new leader after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s two terms.
On a broader scale, those below 35 form about 75 per cent of Kenya’s population. Interestingly, it’s been difficult for parties to woo this group as many are either politically apathetic, or disinterested in the issues.
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chairman John Mbadi said the party will roll out a massive civic education programme to get eligible youth to register.
“ODM will use its systems to sensitise our people to register as voters. We have structures up to the polling stations. Our party will organise our officials across the country to sensitise our members on the need to register. IEBC has to put in place a mechanism for smooth registration,” Mr Mbadi told the Nation on Thursday.
“We do not want to disadvantage other people like it happened last time, where areas that were considered to be Jubilee strongholds had more registration centres. There must be fairness in the distribution of registration kits so that even when we mobilise our people, they find where to register,” he added.
More on this: IEBC targets to list 215,000 new voters in Nakuru
ODM leader Raila Odinga has proposed a seven-year tax holiday for youth-owned businesses, a commission to mainstream their issues, assurances of access to government tenders as well as 10,000 internship opportunities annually under the Kenya National Youth Internship Programme.
Deputy President William Ruto, on the other hand, has promised to set aside Sh30 billion annually to fund small businesses and reduce the number of taxes paid by the youth, even as he seeks to get many more in the tax bracket in his ‘Hustler Nation’ economic plan.
“We’ve activated our machinery countrywide to mobilise our supporters to register as voters. The Hustler movement is powered by the youth, hence it’s important to ensure they are registered as voters, particularly those 18 to 25. We shall also use social media influencers,” Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata said yesterday.
The Wiper Democratic Movement has set up committees at all polling stations to supervise the registration. “We’ve set up registration committees across the country that will work with IEBC officials,” said Wiper vice-chairman and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr.
Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford-Kenya are set to organise youth-related activities. Ford-Kenya deputy party leader Richard Onyonka said they won’t allow IEBC to deploy only five clerks per constituency, arguing that such a move would discourage potential voters.
“The problem we have with IEBC is that they are talking about giving a constituency five clerks. This is unacceptable. We should have at least two clerks at each polling station. Reduce the distance our people have to travel so that registration can take place smoothly,” said the Kitutu Chache South MP, adding that IEBC must allow the public to scrutinise the voter register.
Also read: Time for vote hunt as IEBC targets 6m youth
Making voting mandatory
Mr Onyonka is also working on a Bill that will ensure voting is mandatory, arguing that low turnout contributes to bad governance.
“I’ll table a Bill that will ensure voting is mandatory. If you want government services, you have to vote and have a record that shows you voted. We get bad leaders because just a little over 50 per cent vote. We shall target schools because there are many students who are 18. We will encourage them to register,” he said.
ANC national chairman Kelvin Lunani lamented that the department of registration of persons had failed to fast-track the issuance of national identity cards (ID).
“Senator Cleophas Malala will host a football tournament in Kakamega that will help in mobilising youths for ID and voter registration cards,” he said.
While Kenya has about 9.2 million eligible new voters, the IEBC seeks to enlist only six million who had either not turned 18 by 2017, or simply failed to register. This will raise the number to 23.6 million, up from 19.6 million in 2017.
University of Nairobi don XN Iraki argues that youths usually fail to vote because they do not appreciate the link between good leadership and their well-being.
“Many seem to believe the myth that politics is a dirty game, however, they will play a great role next year if they become politically conscious,” he said.