22. srpna 2016 | News

Jakub Čech: Proč se mladí nezajímají o politiku

Monday Comment

I often realize how little engaged the young people of my age—and young people in general—are in politics. We talk about it, but the usual answer is, hardly anything will change. I run short of arguments, for I know things are not always easy. There are many obstacles that prevent under-age people form becoming more deeply involved in civic matters.

Obstacles posed by the value orientation of society are perhaps the most resilient to change. Regrettably, a large part of the Czech population is still prone to believe that civic activity and the interest in public affairs are not any good for the young generation. Perhaps it might be blamed on the lingering experience with the old regime and the belief that a certain type of activity might cost one dearly, or that active people actually help perpetuate the wrong system. Maybe an infamous role goes to the Klaus Doctrine of the 1990s, limiting civic activities to going to the polls once every four years. My experience tells me that this way of thinking is deeply embedded in the popular mind and it is difficult to really challenge this societal phenomenon. However, society will not change overnight, but the process must take several decades.

An easier method of awakening civic leanings in young people is to simply stop raising legislative obstacles to the proceedings.

Let’s take up, for example, presidential elections or local referendums—indeed, fairly simple and easy-to-understand topics. Are citizens younger than eighteen years alllowed to sign petitions in order to support a referendum or a candidate of their choice? Do the olds really think the young ones would not understand what’s cooking?

It seems quite unusual, even in this context, that a petition in accordance with the petitions act can be signed by anyone who feels fit for the occasion. There is no age threshold set for that. The same approach is applied to the signatures collected in case of changes in territorial planning: even here, the general provisions of the Civil Code are applicable. Uniquely, however, the possession of a data box is made conditional on the full accounability status, normally achieved at the age of 18 years, unless a court rules differently. Thus, a citizen under eighteen is denied the right to address a meeting of his municipal elders, even if he or she has intensively worked on an issue debated by his local council.

The problem is that most of these limits and restrictions do not pursue any legitimate goal, or at least I cannot see any. Maybe it should be accepted, in case of suffrage, that persons between 15 and 18 years of age are more likely to jump on rash solutions and vote for extremist parties. But what reason is there for the other limitations of rights, is a mystery to me.

As long as citizens keep facing obstacles to the exercise of their political rights, it cannot be expected that the State will work efficienty. This is very dangerous for young people, for unless they become involved in civic matters at a young age, they will follow the path of their parents and grandparents and only debate politics in the local pub.

Jakub Čech - a high school student and activist