Voter Apathy Increasing Among Young: Comfrel

Young Cambodian voters are increasingly losing interest in politics, and fewer people between the ages of 18 and 30 are now voting in elections, according to a new report by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

According to the Comfrel report, young voters aged between 18 and 30 make up an estimated 43 percent of Cambodia’s more than 8 million registered voters, but only 60 to 65 percent of them vote compared with about between 72 to 78 percent of voters age 30 years or older.

The list of reasons why young Cambodians don’t vote is long and includes lack of information provided by schools, the government not paying attention to youth related issues, and young people being less likely to travel to their home pro­vinces to register to vote, said Com­frel Exe­cutive Director Koul Panha.

“The major reason is that they are new voters and maybe they don’t learn so much about [politics] and how important it is to be in­vol­ved in politics in school,” Koul Pa­n­ha said by phone Monday.

“When they graduate, the young people are very much concerned with employment and they don’t have much time to think about politics,” he said, adding that the government should do more to educate and encourage youth to get involved in politics.

The report was based on two case studies, one in Kompong Cham province and one in Kandal province, where a total of 437 people, 47 percent of whom were wo­men, were asked questions about their political habits.

National Election Committee Secretary-General Tep Nytha disputed the findings of the report, saying that people aged between 18 and 30 made up at least 50 percent of all registered voters.

In the 2008 national election, turnout was only 75 percent of all voters, but at least 50 percent of those were under age 30, he added.

“The government has sent out letters to the schools for teachers to educate students about the importance of voting, and we also provide brochures,” he said.

The government, he said, could improve the registration process to make it easier to register. (Ad­dit­ional reporting by Phorn Bopha)

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