In the Africa at LSE blog, PfAL 4’s Yusuf Kiranda analyses whether the youth vote can steer the course of the 2016 general elections in Uganda.

The third general elections since the reintroduction of the multiparty system will be held in Uganda on February 18. Elections have been seen as a quasi-market where political agents trade policy promises to voters who make choices that permit selected politicians to control government institutions and by this determine the allocation of scarce resources. The logic of electoral competition is that politicians are primarily concerned with attaining electoral victory, they thus have a proclivity to respond to the interests of those groups which are seen as most likely to swing the vote.

Motivated by the Arab Spring as well as the most recent developments in Burkina Faso, considerable discourse on current African political processes have paid much attention to the continent’s youth. Their demographic significance and high unemployment rates are seen as factors that have augmented youth political activism. In the 2016 elections in Uganda, population statistics and the national voters’ register show that youth make up a significant proportion of registered voters: around 44 per cent of 15.2 million. Counterfactually speaking, if Ugandan youth were to significantly turnout and cast their vote as a united bloc, they could swing the vote to determine the eventual election outcome—only 60 percent of total registered voters turned out to vote in the most recent election in 2011. However, the absence of youth-specific issues, possession of multiple identities as well as high unemployment and poverty levels makes co-ordination of the youth vote a tall order. As such, young people’s demographic significance and their high numbers on the voters’ register may actually count for less than often speculated. Indeed whether young people will turn up in large numbers to vote remains a matter of guesswork.

Read the full article on the Africa at LSE blog.