On Saturday evening 6 March we got a confirmation for the rumours that were already swirling around: The Municipal Elections which were planned for April were moved to June due to the worsening COVID-19 situation. One can wonder why this decision was made only five weeks before Election Day. Understandably, the vaccination process and the new virus strains have shaken the world weekly, so planning ahead has been very challenging.
Voting is one of the cornerstones of our democracy and civic participation. By voting, we place our trust in the candidate and their party to make the best decisions for all the habitants of the town. The Council’s mandate to make these decisions relies entirely on how many people have given their trust to the decision-makers. Hopefully in June there are no health risks involved with voting so that everyone who is hoping to cast their ballot can do so without worries or troubles.
The elections at hand pose particular problems for young and first-time candidates. At the heart of campaigning is meeting people, discussions with voters and other candidates, as well as the feeling of making a difference together with others. Even though we have learned to live our lives on a video conference, these tools do not make it possible to high-five one another or to look someone in the eye. You can’t really get carried away by the sound of discussion filling the room on Zoom. The experiences of doing things together are absolutely vital for campaigning.
Many young people have gotten good election results by meeting and talking with voters. Very few of them have the resources to take up ad space on a newspaper or the side of a bus, or to purchase visibility on social media. The printed flyers with wrong election dates are now being carried into the recycling bin, possibly wrecking the candidates budget for the whole election. Of course, social media offers a good chance to do campaigning, but many candidates do not have the necessary tools or the mental fortitude to dive into the sometimes brutal world of online discussion.
The past year has been endured with the thought that all of this will be over soon. Constant setbacks in the COVID situation – of which the election postponement is just one sign – eat away on the well-being of all candidates. Two additional months of campaigning can be damaging to the representativeness of the eventual new council. The danger is that the most visible candidates are also those who have the most resources to spend into campaigning, or those who are able to take time off for intensive campaigning in June. In such dystopia, the representativeness of the council takes a blow, and underrepresented groups’ such as young people’s and students’ voices are not heard in decision-making.
What can we do about it, then? How can I help the candidates in my circles? If you know young candidates, send them an encouraging message telling them how you respect their work. Donate to their campaigns if possible. Ask if you can help in other ways. Remind your friends of the importance of voting as Election Day draws closer. Remember that you can vote in advance, even from another town. Give your vote to a young candidate.
– Secretary General Venla Monter