Youth participation in elections or what to expect in 2016
NewsPublished on 2015-03-20

According to data of the Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania, in the first municipality and mayor elections round 31% of young people expressed their opinion. Youth participation in elections decreased by 6 per cents in comparison to Presidential and European Parliament elections in 2014.

The decrease of youth participation in elections causes concern

Sociologist Rūta Žiliukaitė says that the decrease of youth participation during these elections in comparison to 2014 Presidential and European Parliament elections surprises a little bit. However, she reminds us that municipality elections have always been attracting fewer voters.

“It would seem that it should be the over way round. Local government is closer to people, therefore trust in it should be bigger than in the ones elected to national government institutions, for example, parliament,- adds R. Žiliukaitė.

According to her, at this time we have a number which shows that youth was less active than older people.

“However, we should not rush to say that this means the fall of youth activeness, it only means that local politics is just not interesting for youth. Youth does not see a point to waste their time and make a decision for whom to vote in municipality elections”, - says sociologist.  

Politics- only a part of adult people lives?

Mantas Zakarka, Lithuanian youth council, which organizes campaign “I do care”, president, says that in comparison to 2011 municipality elections, youth participation is not low. However, according to him, it is necessary to identify reasons which determine that still majority of young people does not express its opinion in elections.

“Youth participation in elections this year is lower than the one in 2014 for variety of reasons. One of these reasons- majority of politicians still is not oriented towards a young voter, who sees problems of his/her city the best”,-comments M. Zakarka.

R. Žiliukaitė adds that usually one of the reasons is also indifference towards politics which somehow is seen as a part of adult people lives.

“When you become independent, create family, start working, politics, seems, and reaches us way more. On the other hand, youth inactivity is a failure of politicians of local governments, who are not able to find ways to communicate with youth in order to reach it”, says sociologist.

Youth political culture- in the future we can wait for positive changes

According to R. Žiliukaitė, this year young people by themselves initiated a lot of civic actions focused on encouraging interest in elections; therefore it would be wrong to say that youth political culture is worsening. Contrary, this shows signs of more optimistic and more positive changes in the future.

“Just these kind of changes do not happen too quickly and time will show, if youth participation in elections will increase”,-says sociologist.

Mantas Zakarka also agrees that with each election youth political culture is getting stronger and stronger.

“Youth organizations each year encourage young people to come to elections and decide by themselves who have to be elected to governmental institutions. By the help of campaigns like “I do care” we can inform the youth of all Lithuania and step by step increase its participation in elections” adds LiJOT director.  

Changes, which determine youth participation in elections

Ideas, active social movements and new leaders, seems, could become a guarantee of activism of young people. R. Žiliukaitė asks if it is possible to expect that leaders and social movements which would strengthen civic and political skills of young people will appear in Lithuania.

„In order for these movements to work leaders, who would attract young people, are necessary. Networking system which would be applied to mobilization of youth is also crucial, as to hope that a young person sitting at home, who also lives in totally apolitical surrounding, randomly will decide to come to elections, is naive“, -adds R. Žiliukaitė  

M. Zakarka is sure that for the abovementioned political and civic skills, civic education at schools makes impact.

“ Not so long time ago, in autumn, LiJOT organizations adopted a document regarding civic education in Lithuania which makes direct impact on young peoples’ consciousness and responsibility for their country”,- states representative of youth organizations.

What we can expect in the following elections to the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania?

In 2016 citizens of Lithuania will elect new members of Parliament. The question which emerges is what kind of youth participation we can expect in these elections. Sociologists say that Parliamentary elections always attract more people than elections to the European Parliament or municipalities- it is a general tendency.

„Having it in mind, I think that we could expect higher participation from both-older and younger voters“-says R. Žiliukaitė.  

M. Zakarka says that a young person in Lithuania is active and civically engaged but governmental institutions should cooperate more with nongovernmental sector in order to ensure the most effective means to achieve positive results in the field of civic education.