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Colombia: why young people don't vote?

Next Sunday, May 27th, Colombians will elect the new President of the Republic. An important and decisive factor is the vote of young citizens, whose electoral potential can decide the winner of these elections. However, historically it has been shown that beyond the digital activism and expressions of nonconformity that characterize them, young Colombians refrain from going to vote and, therefore, prefer to excluded themselves from decision-making and public interest issues.

Leer en español: Colombia: ¿por qué los jóvenes no votan?

According to the National Civil Registry (Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil, in Spanish), in the presidential elections will be able to vote a total of 36,227,267 people, of which approximately 12,000,000 are young (33.3%). According to the above, if one takes into account that to be president, between 7 and 8 million votes are required, only with the vote of the young people would be elected to the next president of Colombia.

However, for reasons that range from political culture, academic training and disconnection with the reality and history of the country, young people have not yet appropriated the ability to make decisions and generate social changes through these. An example of this are the results of elections such as the 2010 Presidential elections and the 2016 Plebiscite (Plebiscito, in Spanish).

The lost opportunities of young Colombians

In 2010, the famous and ephemeral Ola verde (Green Wave) brought together thousands of young people across the country, around Antanas Mockus of the Partido Verde (Green Party). For them, Mockus represented hope, the desire for change and renewal, the person capable of preventing the continuity of the Seguridad Democrática (Democratic Security) led by former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez. A policy that for these people was synonymous of violence, stigmatization and persecution, mainly against young people.

Despite the fervor, enthusiasm and commitment that apparently young people had, the vote obtained by Mockus did not reflect the activism in social media or the demonstrations in the streets and all the emotion experienced during the campaign, because who achieved the victory in those elections was the current president Juan Manuel Santos:

Results of the 2010 Elections

  • Juan Manuel Santos: 9'028,943 votes (69.12%)
  • Antanas Mockus: 3'587.975 votes (27.47%)

In 2016, with Santos already exercising his second term after being re-elected in 2014, the Peace Agreement with the FARC guerrillas was signed. However, Santos decided that in order to endorse and legitimize what was agreed, in order to give free pass to the implementation of the agreement, Colombians would be summoned to decide whether or not to approve what was signed in Havana by means of their vote.

At that time, as happened in 2010, the young people were the most activists to defend the peace agreement and invited other citizens to vote for the YES, in order to approve what was agreed and allow implementation. Social media and the streets were the scenarios used by young people for that purpose. However, the result did not correspond to what was done in the campaign:

Results of the 2016 Plebiscite

  • YES: 6'377.482 votes (49.78%)
  • NO: 6'431.376 votes (50.21%)

A new opportunity

Today again young Colombians are facing a historic opportunity to exploit their capacity to make decisions and decide their future. Unlike 2010 and 2016, there has been a greater interest in inquiring, informing, questioning and knowing how to participate in these presidential elections.

Proof of this is that, according to data from the National Registry, during the days of registration of ballots to be able to vote between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, a good number of those who registered were precisely young people: the new citizens who will exercise their right / duty to vote in these elections.

On the other hand, it is worth noting that for the first time the 'Youtubers' that influence the opinion of many teenagers and young people, took the trouble to dialogue with the presidential candidates in a conversation called Youtubers vs Candidatos (Youtubers vs Candidates) transmitted on May 22th in the YouTube platform.

This was a space for those young people who can vote and who still do not decide whether they will do it, or definitely did not think to do so, reflect on the importance of the vote and think for a moment about the responsibility that they have and the importance of going to the polls next May 27th.

What happens in Colombia next Sunday will show if young people will again prefer apathy, abstention and indifference; or if on the contrary they will assume, now, the role that corresponds to them to change the history and direction of Colombia.

Latin American Post | Samuel Augusto Gallego Suárez

Translated from "Colombia: ¿por qué los jóvenes no votan?"

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