"You Decide" - awareness campaign encourages young people to come out and vote


In about a month's time, Czechs will go to the polls for parliamentary elections. Latest opinion polls predict that the turnout this year will be around 53 percent. According to various studies, young people between 18 and 30 are among those least likely to come out and cast their ballots. A group of activists has decided to try and change that - to approach specifically this age bracket with short videos under the common headline "You Decide or Voting is Sexy".

A series of 30-second video clips are currently being shown in commercial breaks on some cable TVs and in major cinemas. Aiming to appeal to young people, they try to hammer home the message that every vote counts. Michal Gregorini from a Prague graphic design studio is one of the fathers of the project.

"We decided to do it because we are really worried about the very low activity of young people in general and in the elections."

Michal approached three renowned film directors, who all worked for free. Ivan Zacharias was one of them.

"What we wanted to do was to make people laugh a little bit and use that form to tell them that they should go and vote because it's quite important and it's an easy thing to do."

Each director took a different approach. One uses actors, another computer animation. Ivan Zacharias chose to use archive footage from lower house sessions.

"We found in the archive footage from the Czech Parliament some funny moments, such as some members of parliament sleeping and eating and playing cards - basically things they shouldn't do there. And we cut it together and we obviously used some sound from the session which sometimes worked with the picture in a funny way, hopefully. So I hope people will like it."

The audiences certainly do laugh at the videos but whether they will inspire young people to come out and vote is another matter. Jan Herzmann is the head of one of Prague's major polling companies. He explains why young people are chronic non-voters.

"In fact, there are three different reasons for that, the first being that young people don't feel the necessity to participate in political life and influence political life, as they believe that politics doesn't influence them. The second reason is disbelief in politicians and politics as such, sometimes disgust at what Czech politicians did or do, and the third reason is that many young people are not able to chose among the parties - to pick the party which is closest to their opinions. And this is on the other hand linked to the fact that there are very few young people working in the parties, offering their strategies and their practices to other young people."

While the artists and organisers say they believe the campaign will bring more young people to the polls, Jan Herzmann is rather sceptical.

"Well, I do not believe the increase of turnout will be dramatic but some increase can be reached, and at least young people could start thinking about their participation in politics and political life and that is a good target."

You can watch the videos at www.rozhodnete.to