To have a functioning, accountable democracy that serves the public, the citizen's participation in the electoral process is key. Active participation of young people in decision-making on a local, regional and national level is crucial in building a more democratic and inclusive society. Robust and visible participation of citizens in political processes makes decision-making more acceptable, builds trust, and boosts the ownership concept between citizens and politicians. Despite this vital connection, the level of participation is not sufficient and, consequently, trust in politics is low.
The lack of trust of young people in institutional policies is seen as an issue all over Europe. This distances young people from the state and its representatives, public institutions, and other relevant stakeholders. Some recent studies have noted low participation in voting, a reduction in membership of political parties, low interest in politics, as well as low levels of trust of young people in political institutions.
With this in mind, the Youth and Elections 2021 project was created to give young people a platform to engage with political candidates and learn more about the workings of political institutions and policy-making.
The goals of the project were:
A multi-dimensional monitoring process was implemented with regards to Central Elections and the youth were directly involved in public debates with candidates through a dedicated TV programme (RinVote). This project provided a clear overview of candidates' political bids regarding public policies affecting youth.
After a rigorous selection process, 12 young people were chosen to participate. The process began with the Political Education Academy. This Academy served as an important step to prepare the participating youth for their TV debates. Their journey through the Political Education Academy was led by renowned experts and lecturers in different political, economic, and social fields. They provided the participants with information while also motivating the young people through the introduction of innovative ideas in their relative fields. This guidance by the experts allowed the youth participating in the Political Education Academy to maximise their knowledge and ready them for their TV debates.
For the first time in the modern history of Albania, the opposing dominating political wings sat together to debate with these young people. There is no doubt that the successful RinVote TV programmes have paved the way for a new area of policy-making and youth participation in Albania. The success of the first edition of the RinVote Project and the appreciation it has received from a wider audience, not only youth, have laid the foundation for a second edition, which will be even more interesting and provide a more in-depth review on youth-related political issues.