Bringing the Youth Back in Political Participation: Latvian Youth Representation in Local Governments, the National Parliament and the European Parliament

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Abstract

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, post-soviet countries saw high levels of political participation. In the first democratic national elections of 1993, voter turnout in Latvia was 89.9 per cent. However, by the late 90s the participation levels had significantly decreased. As many noted scholars have pointed out, this dramatic decrease was a result of people gradually learning the limits of democratic governance while tackling the feeling of political powerlessness and decreasing trust in politicians
and political institutions – all of which have had negative effects on civil society and democratic ideals (Howard 2003, Inglehard and Catterberg 2003). Youth in particular has been affected by the sum of all this, seeing first-hand the economic problems of small towns, income inequality, economic stagnation, corruption and personal unemployment, or that of their parents. All this, combined
with lack of democratic traditions has resulted in scepticism and political apathy.
Youth participation in particular is essential for the continuation of political processes; their input should be valued in setting local agenda. Participation in political parties or political party youth organisations is one such field where youth can get involved in order to help set the agenda, and also use them as platforms to later run for office. Even though most political parties in Latvia have very weak youth organisations, there is plenty of opportunity that youth can use to get involved in politics, especially on local government level, where competition is scarce, or youth is even given an advantage, because in comparison to the general population of some small towns, they have acquired better education, they know foreign languages, and they have better IT skills.
This paper shows that since 2009, Latvia has seen a decrease in share of youth who run as MP candidates in local government elections, national parliament elections and the European Parliament elections. In 2009, the share of youth (aged 18-30) of the population who ran in local government elections was 23.6 per cent, and in the European Parliament elections (aged 21-30) 19 per cent, same as in the national parliament elections. However in the elections from 2017 through 2019, the numbers have decreased to 18.9, 15.5 and 14.7 per cent respectively. The paper aims to clarify the reasons for the decrease of youth participation, when economic factors and general welfare have increased (GDP per capita ppp increased from 12,288 in 2009 to 17,858 in 2019).
The paper explores the role traditional socialization agents (family, church, education) play compared to some newer ones, e.g., social media and influencers, who have become mass consumer and marketing tools for political parties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2021
EventIAI International Virtual Academic Conference "Education and Social Sciences, Business and Economics" - virtual
Duration: 22 Sep 202122 Sep 2021

Conference

ConferenceIAI International Virtual Academic Conference "Education and Social Sciences, Business and Economics"
Abbreviated titleIAI
Period22/09/2122/09/21

Keywords*

  • Civil Society
  • Political Participation
  • Democracy
  • Political Activism
  • Youth

Field of Science*

  • 5.6 Political science

Publication Type*

  • 3.4. Other publications in conference proceedings (including local)

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