Less than a fortnight before Czechs go to the polls to vote in local and Senate elections, the country’s teenagers had a chance to cast their ballot in mock local elections. The undertaking aims to interest teenagers in politics, active citizenship and let them experience what voting in elections involves.
Mock elections in secondary schools have taken place for eight successive years and the results clearly show one thing – teenagers have different political preferences than their parents. The election results from 39 Prague schools, in which 3,000 teenagers took part, were a triumph for the Czech Pirates Party which won 26.1 percent of the vote, followed by the right-wing TOP 09 and the Party of Mayors and Independents which got over 19 percent. The right-wing Civic Democrats got 10.7 percent of the vote and Praha sobě, a civic initiative that promises to significantly improve the quality of life in the capital, got 10.2 percent.
Karel Strachota who heads the educational program Jeden svět na školách, focusing on media education and active citizenship, says the victory of the Pirates Party was predictable.
“Young people like to hear fast solutions, they are put off by the rhetoric of the traditional parties and so they tend to vote for anti-establishment parties. The Pirates Party is seen as a force that will bring a wind of change to Czech politics. Its members are young and very active on social networks, they know how to address the young generation and their drive to legalize marihuana is also something the young understand and appreciate.”
Further proof of the importance of communication is that although many young people are environmentally conscious the Green Party only got 4.5 percent of the vote in the mock elections. Karel Strachota again:
“The Green Party is doing an extremely poor job of communicating with the young generation which is why they have done badly not just in this but in all previous elections. They do not know how to address the young, explain their goals and win them over for their policies.”
When I asked Karel Strachota what had changed over the eight years that mock elections have been held, he said it was the attitude of politicians themselves.
“When we launched this project in 2010 it evoked a very negative reaction from some politicians and political parties –the Education Ministry abruptly withdrew its support for the project, the Association of Schools opposed it. I think many political parties feared the results might damage them in the elections proper. Their election campaigns were not targeted at teenagers and many did not know not to reach out to them. Since then they have realized the importance of addressing the future generation of voters and the criticism abated.”
The results of mock elections in schools around the country have not yet been made public and will appear on the given school’s web page.