Youth vote: Parties vie to capture lion’s share

UNB . Dhaka | Update:

Parties vie to capture lion’s share of youths` votes. Photo: UNBA total of 25 million young people, aged between 18 and 28, are expected to play a vital role in upcoming general elections scheduled to be held on 30 December.

There were 13.7 million new voters during the 5 January 2014 elections but most of them could not cast their votes as voting was not held in 154 constituencies at the time and major opposition parties boycotted the polls.

In addition to them, 12.3 million new voters have been added to the list for exercising their franchise this year.

Almost 25 million people, comprising 22 per cent of the total voters, are going to cast their votes for the first time in the 11th parliamenatry elections.

Considering the fact, major political parties including ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have been considering various strategies, to attract them.

While talking to UNB, many young voters said, using younger leaders, focusing youth demands on further economic growth and digitalisation, and promoting youth-friendly policies may in fact help politicians win them over.

"We always want such leaders who understand our demands and expectations. Although older leaders have more experience in politics or others sectors, but most of them have little knowledge on internet and technology. That's why I always like to vote for someone younger with more progressive and liberal values and someone in whom I see my own image," said Hayder Ali, a second year student of Accounting and Information system department of Dhaka University.

Rafia Haq Sristy, a student of mass communication and journalism at DU said, "We want a party or alliance to come to the power through free and fair election. If they are not elected by the people, they don't feel any responsibility to the people and the country."

Sayed Mohammad Arafatur Rahaman, a graduate student of peace and conflict department at DU said, "Bangladesh has attained all the criteria for graduation from the least-developed country (LDC) group to a developing one this year and officially about to move out of the LDC category within the next few years. I will definitely cast my vote for that particular political party or leadership which can lead this development to sustainable progress."

"Youths are always the decision-makers in Bangladesh election. In 2008, youths voted Awami League because of their commitment to create digital Bangladesh. That time Awami League's slogan of 'Digital Bangladesh' attracted most of the youths," said Liton Nandi, central general secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra Union.

"Now the situation is different. The recent road safety movement and quota reform movement will affect the upcoming elections. The two massive protests ultimately will go against the government," he added.

Mohammad Rashed Khan, joint convener of Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhon Parishad (Bangladesh General Students' Rights Protection Council), a platform that led the recent reform movement, said, "The main problem of our country is unemployment. Most of the graduates are not getting jobs. As a result, the number of unemployed educated people is increasing day by day."

"We already submitted a youth manifesto to the major political parties where we had described the necessity of creating new opportunities for youths. Now we are eagerly waiting to see what steps the parties take to create employment opportunities."

"The Ruling Awami League oppressed the people in the last 10 years. The youth are also victims of this oppression. That's why we hope the young generation won't support the ruling party," Saiful Islam Firoz, a young MP candidate from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), who is contesting for the first time from Jhenaidah-4 told UNB.

"The youth supported the AL in last two general elections. The government also successfully fulfilled all its commitments to the youth in the last 10 years. We're trying every possible way to attract them in the upcoming election too," said Nazrul Islam Babu, Narayanganj-2 MP from the ruling Awami League.

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