Political absenteeism of youth in Russia

Nikita Lyakhovetskiy is an ALDE Im from Russia.  Political activist from Russia, specialising in International law and International relations. Member of Russian United Democratic Party “Yabloko”, he talks about young people in Russia and their low participation in political things

Political absenteeism is defined as the evasion of voters from voting in elections, or political behavior. Absenteeism can be an indicator of the loss of people’s trust in the political system or interest in political activity. It can pose as a serious threat to the legitimacy of the authorities, resulting in either complete political apathy or extremism.

Generally, there are two types of absenteeism: active and passive. Passive absenteeism is a result of low levels of political culture – as a result of people not understanding the importance of the political process, they tend to renounce taking part in any political activity.

Active absenteeism, on the other hand, is a type of political protest. Active absenteeism takes place when a person, who doesn’t like any of the candidates on the ballot, or disagrees with the question of the referendum, deliberately refuses to vote. The problem with active and passive absenteeism is that it is impossible to determine how many people refused to vote due to their political views and how many due to the lack of understanding of the political process. And politicians use this problem, to claim that all the people who didn’t vote, are, in fact, their supporters. For example, famous Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny, after being denied access on ballot during last presidential elections, called for a boycott and afterward claimed that the majority of the people who didn’t vote were his supporters. He is planning on using the same strategy during the upcoming constitutional amendments vote.

Development of society depends on the participation of the young generation. Young people have enormous innovative potential, which is the source of current and future changes in public life. The increasing role of young people in society is a natural tendency, which is becoming more clear nowadays, in the era of globalization and interconnectedness.

Opposition parties in Russia are creating different ways to get the youth involved. For example Russian liberal Yabloko Party ran a  “Make Your Voice Louder!” campaign calling citizens of Russia to join the  party so that to make their voice heard in defending their rights and making the government change their policies. Grigory Yavlinsky called on all Russian citizens to participate in politics and join Yabloko, because the approaching domestic political crisis represents a rare moment when a mass party can change the fate of a country.  After this call, hundreds of people all over Russia joined  Yabloko, including renowned academics and human rights activists.

But not only the opposition is trying to involve the youth, the government is also seeking for a variety of methods of youth involvement in politics. State parties and public organizations connected to the government have increased their work with the young electorate. First, it was the creation of youth organizations under the patronage of the presidential administration. Then they ran a parliamentary school, which was in fact, just a way to get youth to work with United Russia – the ruling party, and a bunch of youth forums, which were closely tied to the ruling party as well.

These examples prove the hard work of the government to involve youth in politic life and why this is so important, but the problem will not disappear if the causes were not fixed. So what are the reasons that prevent young people from participating? Firstly, this is a low educational level. Statistics prove that people without college experience show lower interest in this sphere of life than students with college experience. Secondly, distrust of the government. It is expressed in distrust of certain power structures, specific officials, state and municipal institutions. It can lead to the total disregard of the election. most of the young people do not believe that their voice will make any changes. They think that the results of an election are already known in advance.

Most countries have to deal with absenteeism and look for different ways to overcome it. For example, the introductions of a mandatory vote, that is, the legal duty of voters to participate in voting. It is used in Italy, Australia, Belgium, Greece, Turkey.

Politics is not considered important or even remotely interesting by many young people, they think it is just a group of old people sitting in the parliaments and writing laws, but the thing they do not understand is, that those laws politicians write, those decisions politicians make, are directly affecting everyone’s daily life. It matters of war and peace, that politicians are up to decide, and if the youth is not going to choose the right representatives, the views, progressive ideas shared by most of the young people will not be represented during the lawmaking process, and thus the decisions made, will not be progressive, but are likely to be rather conservative.

Nikita Lyakhovetskiy

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