Even though Youth make the largest chunk of Pakistan’s population and registered voters in 18 to 29 years cohort form the largest of all age cohorts, Youth voter turnout remains abysmally low in Pakistan.
Citing estimated data on Youth voter turnout collected by Gallup Pakistan over the past 8 General Elections since 1988, PILDAT has said that Youth voter turnout in the past eight (8) elections happens to be just 31% which is 13 percentage points lower than the average overall voter turnout in these eight (8) elections.
Youth voter turnout is even lower than women voter turnout during the past two elections for which women voter turnout figures are available. Average Youth voter turnout estimates are a mere 31.5% compared to 40% for women voter turnout and 53% for average national voter turnout during the last two elections in 2013 and 2018. In India, youth participation in the 2019 General Election exceeded the All India turnout by approximately 2%.
The issue of low level of youth voter turnout in Pakistan is further compounded by extremely scant youth participation in the political process as a whole with minimal political association and participation in elections as candidates at various levels (Local, Provincial and National). PILDAT, which has consistently invested in building youth’s leadership potential and understanding of the democratic process through 16 Youth Parliaments Pakistan, strongly believes that in order to strengthen Pakistan’s electoral process and to make it more inclusive, it is imperative that every state and political entity plays an effective role to increase Youth participation in elections. PILDAT has just launched the registration process for young Pakistanis to register to join the 17th Youth Parliament Pakistan through which 272 young Pakistanis will be selected from equal number of National Assembly constituency across Pakistan. In addition, youth representation is invited from young Pakistanis living in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and from young Pakistanis residing overseas.
Drawing attention of the Election Commission of Pakistan to the critical issue of low voter turnout in youth of Pakistan, PILDAT has urged the ECP to consider:
- Carrying out estimation of total number of registered voters in the age group of 18 to 29 in the electoral rolls with breakdown for gender, provinces and even constituencies needs to be undertaken. This data also needs to be made public periodically at least on a yearly basis
- Undertaking research focusing on Youth participation in electoral process to understand the reasons behind extra-ordinarily low youth voter turnout in Pakistan
- Designing and executing special campaigns aimed at educating youth about the importance of participation as a voter
- Conducting multiple Exit Polls to ascertain the level of Youth voter turnout in future general elections
- Amending the ECP Strategic Plan 2018-2023 to include strategic actions aimed at addressing the low Youth voter turnout
- Creating a dedicated wing or at least designating a focal person within the ECP to focus continuous attention on Youth participation in electoral process
PILDAT remains committed to enhancing Pakistani youth’s engagement in the process of democratic governance in Pakistan. In addition to the ECP, all actors, including political parties, national and provincial governments, and media must join hands to accelerate youth’s meaningful engagement in the electoral and democratic process in Pakistan.