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Andrew King: Why the young won't vote

Published:Tuesday | February 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Andrew King

Young people don't join political parties because they don't offer any real change. If they join at all, it's because it's a great joke to tell a friend.

Young people are disillusioned with electoral politics and political parties and feel let down by public policy. Who can blame us? Many young people protested against the National Housing Trust Outameni transition. It still happened!

With the general election just over three weeks away, the political parties are vying for our votes. The diehards will visit polling stations on February 25, but that will not be true for the youngest sector of the electorate.

If young people do not vote, politicians will be less likely to listen to their concerns. This, in turn, will lead to an even deeper disillusionment among the millennial generation.

Universities and colleges can help to break the vicious cycle of political and public neglect of young people by promoting the discussion of political issues on campuses and encouraging students to register to vote.



While the political parties talk about new politics by including a few young people on their slate of candidates and increasing 'youth engagement', especially for marginalised and disaffected young people, their voices - so far - have been curiously missing from this election campaign. And if you do seek them out, they tell an entirely different story.

Four decades of declining electoral participation, shrinking party memberships, and increasing cynicism about the value of politics have led many thinkers to herald a crisis of democracy among the young and call into question the future legitimacy of the democratic political system.

Much of the disquiet among the young, it's often argued, is because they see so little opportunity for real change through the current political system. From academics to comedians, it's become a sort of aphorism that the young don't vote because they simply see no point in the political system anymore.

Our problem is not a lack of faith in specific parties, but a lack of faith in the whole political system itself. One of the interesting things about the past five years is how little street opposition there has been to the Government. Most striking of all is the lack of visible revolt by young people. If ever there was a time when they had cause to rebel, you might think it would be now. The squeeze on living standards has bitten the young most deeply. It has been easier for employers to deny wage rises to younger workers who are less well-established in their careers.

People of my generation didn't expect to be paid much because of the economic crisis when we secured our first job, but we did expect to be paid something! Many of the young people now stoically accept that the entry price for employment is to take unpaid internships or low-paid BPO jobs after graduating from university.



Rising house prices have been a boon for those who got on to the property escalator when homes were more affordable. For young people, it puts home ownership even further out of reach.

The less the young vote, the more politicians will feel they can ignore us without risk of being punished at the ballot box. The less politics has to offer to young people, the less they are likely to vote.

There's quite a lot of evidence that if you don't get into the voting habit when young, you may never do so. That raises the threat of ever-decreasing turnouts at elections and governments with lesser and lesser claim to have a proper mandate from the people.

Young people want a party that will:

1. Build homes for young professionals, cap rents and invest in apprenticeships.

2. Ensure reliable and consistent water supply.

3. Introduce alternative financing for tertiary education and more study-as-you-earn opportunities.

4. Make amendments to the Constitution to allow for a directly elected executive prime minister.

5. Introduce fixed (general and local) election date legislation.

6. Introduce term limits for members of parliament and the prime minister.

7. Introduce special prosecutor legislation to prosecute corruption in the public and civil service.

8. Introduce right of recall and impeachment legislation;

9. Introduce maximum limits for the number of MPs appointed to Cabinet.

10. Appoint nine independent senators by the governor general to constitute the ultimate tie-breaker for inconclusive issues and to force consensus and compromise.

11. Amend the Constitution to allow a senator to be appointed finance minister and the necessary amendments to allow ministers of either House to sit in the other to answer questions and pilot legislation.

12. Amend the Constitution to allow dual citizens to sit in the Jamaican Parliament.

- Andrew King is a public affairs analyst with an interest in national security, governance and development policies. Email feedback to and