Mock elections show students’ aversion to political establishment

Photo: CTK

More than 22,000 Czech students cast their ballots in this year’s edition of mock elections held at secondary schools across the country. Organized by the charity and human rights advocacy group People in Need, the mock elections put the Czech Pirate Party on top, with 20 percent of the vote. The project is designed to increase student’s participation in the election process. But it also showed how dissatisfied Czech students are with the political establishment.

Photo: CTK
The second edition of mock student elections was held at more than 160 Czech secondary schools on Thursday. Students aged 15 and over were offered ballots with the names of parties running in October’s regional elections. They cast them at improvised polling stations, complete with voting booths.

One of the schools taking part in the mock elections was a ‘gymnásium’ or grammar school, in Kladno, just outside of Prague. Some of the students talked to Czech Radio about why they got involved.

“I took part because I wanted to support my favourite political party which I think is important.”

“They just told me to go vote, so I went to vote. I have no idea what this is all about.”

“Everyone has a favourite party and it will be interesting to learn the results.”

Photo: CTK
The results differed somewhat by the region but overall, the Czech Republic’s Pirate Party won with just over 20 percent of the vote, followed by the ruling TOP 09 party and the right-wing extremist Workers’ Party of Social Justice on third place.

The senior right-of-centre Civic Democrats received 7.8 percent of the mock student vote, and came in fourth; the Communist party only got 4.6 percent, just a little more than the Green Party.

Looking at the outcome of the vote, the project’s coordinator Radovan Hlaváček from the NGO People in Need says that the relatively high support for new, marginal and even extremist groups reflects student’s aversion to the political establishment.

“It’s a message for us that something needs to change. But that’s why we organize the student elections – to show students how some of the important principles of democratic society work, to enable them to explore the election process and to make them more active citizens.”

Photo: CTK
But Mr Hlaváček says the mock student elections also have a more immediate impact on Czech politics.

“That’s what happened two years ago when the mock student elections were held for the first time. The participation of first-time voters [in the 2010 general election] rose by 6 percent in the areas where the student elections took place. So that’s important and that’s what we want to achieve.”

In effect, more first-time voters taking part in the last general election brought more support, and more seats in the lower house, for some of the newly-established parties like TOP 09 and Public Affairs.