THE government is so concerned about voter apathy among the young that is has produced a radio jingle urging those that have come of age to register. The numbers seem to justify government concerns. Until a week or so ago, only 2,850 of the 37,000 who were eligible to be issued an election booklet had registered as new voters. During the same period, ahead of the 2011 parliamentary elections, 14,835 youths had registered.
It is a significant drop, prompting the head of the election service Demetris Demetriou to state, “there is minimal response and if compared with the corresponding period in 2011, the situation is tragic.” According to a survey conducted by the Cyprus Institute of Statisticians, 77 per cent of 18- to 35-year-olds said they would not vote, the majority of whom, gave as their reasons that they did not trust political parties and that politicians lie.
A quarter of those not intending to vote had reached their decision because no-one had shown any interest in helping them find work, a reflection perhaps of youth frustration over the shortage of jobs. There is a high rate of unemployment among the young, who feel, mistakenly, that not enough was being done by the state to create jobs. This is an economy that is only just coming out of the worst recession in its history, with many businesses still struggling and youths are being unfair in blaming the state for the lack of job opportunities.
Disaffection with the political system and lack of trust in politicians are much more legitimate excuses for not voting, as is general apathy which has always been displayed by youth. In a way, indifference to politics and the politicians is healthy as it is an expression of youthful rebelliousness and a sign that youngsters are not as conformist as the youth of five, ten or 20 years ago had been. Youths, commendably, have less respect for the politicians and their parties nowadays, are more critical and much less keen to support, let alone join, a party. For the youth of today it is not cool to belong to a party.
Government and politicians are concerned because they had been accustomed to youths rushing, as soon as they turned 18, to register as voters. This was because of conformism and the control exercised over society by the political parties, which were recruiting members in schools and universities. But the youth of today are more independent, the internet and social media opening their horizons and driving them away from the suffocating embrace of old-fashioned and uninspiring political parties.
After a few years, they might register as voters, so there is no real cause for concern. In fact, we should be pleased that Cypriot youth are at last showing no interest in party politics and elections. Such displays of non-conformity should be welcomed.