Young Egyptians do not trust the electoral system and shun politics because of the security services’ intolerance of public activity, a UN report said on Sunday.
The annual UN Development Program report coincides with mounting protests — small on a global scale but unusual in Egypt — calling for political change before parliamentary and presidential elections this year and next.
Potential Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei led thousands of people on Friday in an anti-torture protest.
However, protests have mostly numbered no more than hundreds in a country of 78 million people, where those between 18 and 29 years old are estimated at a quarter of the population.
“The potential for the creation of an enabling environment also appears to be undermined by the country’s record of democracy and by a security apparatus that is intolerant of any form of public display,” the report said.
“Youth appear to endorse the importance of democracy but do not perceive it as much of a priority as earning a living in the future,” the report said, adding youths faced high unemployment and were deterred by perceived levels of corruption.
Protests in Egypt partly reflect pent-up frustration after almost three decades of rule by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 82, but security forces have been quick and often violent to end them.
Based on discussions with more than 400 graduates, the report said: “By a large majority, they see political activities as useless and incapable of making a difference to their more immediate problems or addressing their real concerns.”
It said youths had lost trust in the electoral process, making religion more attractive. Egypt’s biggest opposition group is the Muslim Brotherhood, but it is officially banned.
The report, which was supported by the government, did not give a detailed account of Egypt’s political system, which critics say gives little room for any organized opposition.
Emergency law, in force since 1981, allows indefinite detention and other steps rights groups say are used to silence dissent. The report said the law undermined media liberties.
“Youth unemployment is the dominant form of unemployment in Egypt, and the most serious kind of youth exclusion,” the report said, adding at least 90 percent of unemployed were under 30 years.
Officials put unemployment at approximately 10 percent, but analysts say this masks problems such as underemployment.
“We are fully aware of the challenges the youths face these days, and we are seeking to decrease them,” Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif told a conference on the report, highlighting economic initiatives but not addressing political issues.