When youngsters shun politics, the nation should be worried

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Worryingly, an entire generation has grown up without the habit of making real choices. Photo: Palash Khan

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Worryingly, an entire generation has grown up without the habit of making real choices. Photo: Palash Khan

It goes without saying that elections are nothing without voters. And often, young first-time voters are more likely to swing to a platform that wants to vote, so they can be an important part of the election. The consciousness of the election hinges especially on these youths, who add to the overall atmosphere leading up to the polling day. This has been a common phenomenon in Bangladeshi electoral politics, which is why national elections often take on the feel of one big festival, regardless of religion or caste.

But those days are over. There is no election festival in Bangladesh. Also, first-time voters don’t show much enthusiasm. After all, political parties, especially the ruling party, do not care much about voters. This disappointing trend was evident in the 2014 elections – when 153 legislators were elected uncontested, with the main opposition camp contesting the elections – and voters were denied the value of their votes.

Especially since the beginning of the so-called “modern democracy” in Bangladesh in 1991, the electoral atmosphere has been gradually fading and has probably reached a historic level. The media has widely reported that many voters could not even cast their votes in the 2018 elections. This upcoming election, 25 million fresh voters, nearly a quarter of the total electorate, may cast their ballots for the first time.

Worryingly, an entire generation has grown up without the habit of making real choices. It doesn’t seem very shocking, but the impact is serious. If people grow up knowing that people’s representatives are elected without voting and there is no accountability system, if they grow up with a winning culture, the country’s future is bleak.

More worrying is the fact that young people are turning away from politics out of frustration. We continue to blame poor politics, corrupt politicians, and a rotten society, but to solve our problems, we need strong political leadership to steer the country in the right direction. A bureaucrat, a businessman, a social worker or a journalist can only lend their support, but leadership must come from political figures. Currently, in the absence of that leadership, the younger generation is increasingly interested in politics.

Why am I speaking with such deep concern? Because another election is in one month. The BNP, the opposition, has announced that they will boycott the elections, and therefore, the election seems to be messed up again. And if there is no strong political opposition in the ballot fight, voter turnout will be reduced or voters will be disenfranchised.

I recently had the opportunity to listen to many young people at a university program organized by the DW Academy. From traffic jams to water scarcity, psychological issues to medical facilities – they discussed voting rights and the election atmosphere. What surprised me is that they want to talk, they want to generate ideas and solutions, but they don’t have the space or we are not providing them.

One of the participants said, “Everything around us is affecting our young generation, but we are in pain, we can’t talk.” Another said his generation had never seen a real election. After the discussion, the youth concluded the process by saying that it is possible to improve the election process and the election system. They have countless problems, which can only be solved if they have the opportunity to talk on the right platform.

A fourth of the country’s population is in the age group of 15-29. According to the census report issued by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the country’s youth population is around 45.9 million. The elders will certainly give guidance, the youth should be foot soldiers, and the relationship should not only be one-way (from top to bottom) but also conflicting with each other. Whatever approach we take, it must combine the experience and wisdom of the elderly with the technical savings and innovation of the young. This combination is important for the development of any society. The wider the gap, the poorer the nation.

Therefore, we should note that young people have been failing to be a part of the democratic process, the election environment and rights. They need to be connected to the mainstream political process that accommodates opposing views. There should be a healthy debate on conflicting ideas to educate the youth. Otherwise there will be no progress. We retreat from the light of reason, away from the value of the democratic process that preaches equality.


Muhammad al-Messum filled it He is the chief reporter of the Daily Star.


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