Scramble for youth vote takes centre stage

Presidential hopefuls and political parties have gone flat out to woo youthful voters who are expected to provide a swing vote in the General Election.
The scramble for youths has started in earnest with various parties engaging professionals to take up leadership positions at the national level.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga has convened an ODM Youth Conference next month, to be followed by a National ODM Women Conference on the second day giving way to the National Governing Council on day three.
Mr Dennis Onyango, the PM’s spokesman yesterday told The Standard that within the party Raila wants to dispense with the top-down, command-and-control, model that has dominated party politics.
Elevated position
“He wants to elevate the position of youth leaders in the party from a sideline post to a main one,” said Onyango.
He added: “The plan to mainstream youth in the party has been part of PM’s plans since 2009 when the Ministry of Planning released data showing that up to 75 per cent of Kenyans were in their mid-thirties and below.”
The PM has said privately that the exit of some of his former allies is a blessing in disguise as it frees his hand to pick a youthful team to help him campaign.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka through his spokesman Kaplich Barsito said that the Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM) party was keen on creating an enabling environment for business to flourish so that the youth can unlock their full potential.
“The VP has repeatedly stated that his government will do less business so as to allow the private sector to drive economic growth and create employment opportunities,” said Kaplich.
Kalonzo recently said in Nairobi that if WDM romps to power, the Government would lease out its offices at a subsidised rate to young entrepreneurs to incubate their businesses and spur economic growth.
He said such a concept would eliminate the problem of high cost of leased office space for the young upcoming business people.
Eldoret North MP William Ruto said in an interview that youths have the key to transforming development in the country. “With clear, focused and proper leadership, we can turn the youth to be part of the solution,” said Ruto.
The National Alliance (TNA) which Uhuru Kenyatta intents to contest the Presidency is perhaps the one with the highest number of youthful professionals.
“The youth being the majority of voters have to be involved in the mainstream management of political parties as opposed to the previous regimes which relegates them to youth wings that unleashed terror against opponents,” said TNA’s national chairman Johnson Sakaja.
Nick Salat, Kanu Secretary General, said the new party constitution has created a youth league and a women league, which has structures to the NDC level.
“The scramble for the youth vote is informed by the fact that the presidential hopefuls and those seeking other elective posts have realised that young professionals were actively involved in changing the political scene as a result of the new Constitutional dispensation,” said Gor Semelango, a social policy management expert and publisher who is also the leader of the Federal Party of Kenya.
Shifting politics
United Democratic Forum (UDF) secretary general Abraham Limo said the young professionals who registered UDF were keen on shifting politics from personality based to issue based one so as to avoid the polarisation, which has characterised the country for decades.
Legislator Abdikadir Mohamed said: “To get full benefits of the new constitution, we need to change politics in the country from destructive to competitive and constructive one. There should be a shift from personal to ideological and issue based politics.”

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