THE INVOLVEMENT OF YOUTH IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
In the framework of its program called "Liberals Thursdays", the Friedrich Naumann Foundation
for Liberty, in partnership with the Centre de Recherche d’Abidjan (CRPA) held a conference
entitled "THE INVOLVEMENT OF YOUTH IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS IN COTE
D'IVOIRE" on Thursday, October 8, 2015 in the great hall of the West African Regional
Episcopal Conference (WAREC) in Abidjan. Dr. Moquet César FLAN, a political scientist and
director of the CRPA, had responsibility to deliver that conference placed under the patronage of
Mr Sidi TOURE, the Ivorian Minister of the Promotion of Youth. Prevented by a last minute
stress, the Minister has sent one of his close associates to represent him and deliver the content of
his opening speech.
At 14:10, Mr Lacina DIOMANDÉ, Director of Community Life and Volunteering, representing
the Minister for the Promotion of Youth, addressed the audience. After presenting the sincere
apologies of the Minister for his absence, and after congratulating the Friedrich Naumann
Foundation for its youth oriented activities, Mr Lacina DIOMANDÉ thanked the lecturer for his
availability to inform youth about the electoral process. Then, he read the opening speech of the
Minister whose content is the following: the young feature of the Ivorian population implies the
important role of the youth in the whole electoral process in Côte d’Ivoire and the fact that the
youth enjoys his confidence.
Following Mr. Lacina DIOMANDÉ, Mrs Sophie KONATÉ, Program Officer at the Friedrich
Naumann Foundation, emphasizes the interest and the relevance of the theme of the conference.
After the various speeches, Dr. Moquet César FLAN took the floor. Here is his full statement.
Youth is defined as the age group symbolizing the transition period from adolescence to
adulthood, usually between 18 and 35 years. It can be identified as a social category.
Some statistics from the 4
General Census of Population and Housing in Côte d’Ivoire
published by the National Statistics Institute on 5 August 2015 show that the place of youth in
the general population as well as in the electoral population of 2015 is preponderant.
On a general population of 22,671,331 inhabitants:
- More than half the population is under 20 years;
- 77.3% is under 35 years, that is to say a little more than 3 persons on 4;
- Young people between 15 and 34 years of age constitute 35% of the population; which results
in extreme youth with a pyramid with a very broad base.
The electoral population of 2015 is 6 300 132 people registered of which almost half is made up
of young people between 18-35 years.
Due to the important place it occupies in the electorate, we can compare the Ivorian youth to
what we call “strategic pivot" in geopolitics. Whoever controls the strategic pivot controls the
island of the world. Whoever commands the island of the world commands the world. (Halford
John MACKINDER) This is the strength of the Ivorian youth at the gate of the 2015 elections.
This analysis raises a concern: what should be his involvement in the electoral process? The
answer to this question requires an inventory.
1. THE INVENTORY
This is an afflicted youth in the sense that it is a youth from a developing country. An afflicted
youth made more vulnerable by a decade of serious crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. This can be seen at
various levels including unemployment, illiteracy, lack of training, and polarization in youth.
- Youth unemployment: according to some estimation, at least 25 % of young people under 35,
who constitute more than ¾ of the population, are unemployed. Although many efforts have
been made in recent years by the Government, the phenomenon of unemployment itself makes
young people vulnerable because of idleness. They can therefore meet any politician solicitation.
- Youth training: in terms of education, Côte d'Ivoire has a predominantly illiterate population
estimated at 51% of which 2/3 are women and ¼ are young people (UNESCO). It is true that
significant advances are recorded at the academic training. However, training remains a major
challenge. In terms of political training, it should be noted that young people are not trained to
the ideology of political parties. Their commitment is less linked to the ideal of the political party
than the personality of the political party’s leader.
- Youth has suffered extremists and nationalist ideas spread during the dark years of Côte
d'Ivoire. Youth does not seem to have everything removed and remains polarized despite the
efforts of the Ivorian political authorities, the partners of the country, the civil society and
religious men and women. Young people also do not hesitate to get carried away on social
networks during the debates on the current governance, with diatribes, insults, threats etc.
This brief inventory is based on three points that result from the military and political crisis or
are amplified by it. The crisis has traumatized Côte d'Ivoire and its youth. This situation could
generate two concerns:
1. Should the Ivorian youth despair of politics and politicians?
2. Should the Ivorian youth remain indifferent to politics?
To answer the first question, we say "no." These are dark days that are part of our history; dark
years which, in principle, if properly appreciated, entail the construction of the nation. Politics
has its ups and downs. But, only politics allows to set up a system whose goal is to work to meet
the material and immaterial needs of citizens. So, we should not despair of politics and
politicians. We should rather help politicians to "stay on their feet". (Tony BLAIR)
To the second question which necessarily derives from the first we also respond in the negative.
Youth must play its part in politics. Whether by their involvement in politics in general (political
interest) or by their participation in the election in particular. We must participate in politics and
the election for the simple reason that if you do not go to politics, it will come to you. (Henri
LOPES) However, going to politics does not mean to "get down to politics". (Silvio
BERLUSCONI) Anyway, everyone can not be a municipal councilor, a regional councilor,
Member of Parliament, President of the Republic etc. The number assigned to the political
functions is limited. And the distribution of the social work justifies its representativeness. The
political participation takes into account the participation in the election. The electoral turn out is
of interest to youth. We should recall that the voting population is very young and it represents
almost half of the electorate. It is a force, "the strategic pivot". If young people are aware of it
and show themselves demanding on the political market, the political and institutional actors will
absolutely take into account their expectations. So, they will compel the political actors to more
More: Once young people are aware of their strength, their status as "strategic pivot" or
"central pivot", the elections only remain the framework of the expression of their
contradictions. They automatically give up to the idea of violence.
But how should be the involvement of youth translated in the electoral process?
II- THE YOUTH AND THE ISSUES OF THE ELECTION
Youth involvement in the electoral process must occur at all stages of the process.
A- Youth involvement in the pre-election period
This involvement could take the form of contributions at the stage preceding the election
campaign and during the campaign.
1- Contribution in the stage preceding the election
- Awareness campaigns for the inclusion of young people in the legal framework for the election
- Youth representation within the body in charge of the election
- Massive registration of youth on the electoral list
- Youth inclusion in the list of candidates
- Contribution to the popularization of the Electoral Code
2- Contribution to the stage of election campaigns
- Organization of online debates on the candidates’ programs
- Awareness of playful processes to civic and voters’ education
B- The contribution of young people in the electoral and post-electoral stages
1- Contribution in the electoral stage
- Solid youth vote
- The young, the exploitable work force: Agent of polling stations, election observers,
representatives of political parties etc.
- Support of vulnerable people (old, disabled ...) by young people to facilitate their voting.
2- Contribution in the post-election period
- Respect for the young of the final election results
- In case of disputes of the results, use legal remedies
- Outreach to the refusal of attempted manipulation by politicians
- Establishment of Early Warning Group of the competent authorities in the districts and
villages by young people in case of threat to peace after the announcement of the election results
NB: For a good youth involvement in the electoral process, they need to be monitored by:
- the government including the Ministry for the Promotion of Youth (popularizing the
electoral code, to show the youth that it is important);
- the organs of the civil society active in the promotion of youth;
- youth movements and associations of religious denominations (Catholic Student Youth
JEC; Association of Muslim Students and Pupils of Côte d'Ivoire AEEMCI etc.)
- the youth of political parties
- the main political actors (leaders of political parties, candidates or not);
- religious men and women;
- representatives of the traditional chiefs: Here it will be to educate young people about
African traditional values including respect for human life, respect for the authority and the
- the law: not to go against individual freedom but to remind young people that they do not
have the right to do anything they want, including attacks on physical integrity of persons,
the destruction of private and public properties.
Youth has a major role to play in the electoral process. It is the main hinge of the electorate. The
interest of youth in the elections compels politicians and institutional actors involved in the
process to more responsibility. Also, young people's interest in the elections makes the various
competitors register their concerns as voting criteria. Thus, their interest in the elections alters
the character of the political market. Therefore, the fact that young people realize they are the
force able to influence decisively the outcome of an election, will lead them to turn away from