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Youth Leader Sees Opportunity for ‘Change-makers’ in Next Election

Mr. Ou Ritthy, co-founder of Politikoffee, political affairs-oriented youth group, talks about Cambodian youth demands for policy debates by competing political leaders on VOA Khmer's Hello VOA radio call-in show, Monday, February 09, 2015. (Lim Sothy/VOA

Cambodia desperately needs more youth leadership, if it is to achieve its goals in the coming future, a youth leader says.

Ou Ritthy, co-founder of Politikoffee, a politically oriented youth group, told “Hello VOA” on Monday that political parties in particular will have to engage the youth in the upcoming 2017 and 2018 elections.

About 70 percent of the country’s population is under the age of 30, making them a demographic of promise, he said. That means another 1 million potential first-time voters in the upcoming elections.

“So, approximately 1.2 million young people will determine the fate of which political party will win the elections and be in power,” Ou Ritthy said.

In the 2013 elections, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party secured 3.2 million votes, slightly more than the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which had 3 million votes. More young voters could turn the tide.

Political observers say youth political participation has become more active than ever and the trend is likely to continue, due to increasingly popular social media platforms like Facebook and Youtube.

“Political engagement today is far better than in the past, because more and more young people are getting interested in politics and they have started discussing politics through the media,” Ou Ritthy said.

And because political parties need youths to win elections, young people now want politicians to debate party policies, to help them choose, he said.

“We want to see whether the politicians are capable enough, or who is better for us to vote for, or whether they have leadership characteristics when they are debating with their rivals,” he said. “Any politician showing anger or lack of patience, understanding and forgiveness, or having a character that does not accept differences in others, may be voted down.”