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LAHORE: Young people should come and vote for their chosen parties on the Election Day was the message given to the youth at a PILDAT briefing session for media on the issue of missing young voters.

Initiating the discussion, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT, shared that despite representing a significant portion of registered voters, young Pakistanis (aged 18 to 35) show a turnout that lags behind the national voting average.

In 2023, young registered voters aged between 18-35 make up 43.85% of the total registered voters. Despite the youth being a significant part of Pakistan’s population, the gap between overall voter turnout and youth voter turnout has been ranging from 7 percentage points in 1993 to 27 percentage points in 2013, showing an increasing trend with the only exception of the 2018 general election when this gap narrowed to 16.5 percentage points.

The PILDAT has estimated that the average youth voter turnout of the past eight elections, from 1988 to 2018, has been an abysmally low at 31%, which is 13 percentage points lower than the average overall voter turnout of 44% in these eight elections. Average youth voter turnout (31.5%) was even lower than women’s voter turnout which stood at 40% in 2018.

Mehboob further said that people’s scepticism about the electoral system has been exacerbated by witnessing economic challenges and the peak of terrorist activities making them resilient but still skeptical about the effectiveness of their participation in the electoral process.

The PILDAT believes that outlining and implementing practical strategic measures to actively engage young people to vote must be adopted by key societal pillars - political entities, media outlets, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Among others who spoke on the occasion included Mujib-ur-Rehman Shami, Ms Benazir Shah and Salman Ghani.

Various discussants highlighted that in the current electoral atmosphere, security agencies are busy highlighting the threat of terrorism to discourage people from voting while infrequent availability of internet would also affect access and transparency on the Election Day. Ms Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT, moderated the discussion.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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