Monday, October 16, 2006

Assisting the voter

On November 22, 2006, Dutch citizens will go to the poles to elect a new government. In order to assist the voters the Institute of Public and Politics (IPP; see banner) has put together an election guide. People can sit behind their computer and compare their opinion with the positions in the party programs on subjects as public order, security, finances, integration and assimilation. They answer 30 questions and get an advice on which party to vote.

Last week all the Dutch hotshots got together and answered the 30 question and were surprised to find out whether they answered in inline with their party program. The program, called Election Guide, assists in making the choice.

The Election Guide is not new to the Dutch voters. In 2002 and 2003 more than 2 million advices were given out. In the municipal elections of March of this year, there were 70 local election guides and 1.1 million advices were given. In the meantime the Dutch election guide has also been applied in Germany and with success.

The IPP organises more activities around the elections. A nationwide election in schools is organised; students vote for their favourite politician, who is usually also the choice of their parents. IPP also published Election newspapers for schools. IPP developed also other programs: one with which you can find your preferred candidate and one to compare your own opinion with the voting behaviour in parliament.

IPP has two main focuses: immigrants and yopung people. Just as in many other European countries, integration regularly figures as a topic of public debate in the Netherlands. Although the proportion of ethnic minorities in municipal councils and district councils is clearly growing, they are still under- represented. The IPP is therefore developing special activities to encourage political participation by immigrants.

Young people is another group that receives particular attention from the IPP. They are our future representatives and administrators. We cannot take it for granted that young people will be interested in political and social decision-making processes, so the IPP is constantly developing and applying methods and tools to involve them in these processes at an early stage and in a playful manner. The activities are targeted at under 25s, teachers and youth workers, with special attention for young people from ethnic minorities and for young people with a low level of education. Youth participation and political education are the two keywords here. The IPP builds on years of experience with projects unique in Europe to introduce young people to politics in a playful manner. In cooperation with more than a hundred young volunteers, the IPP bridges the gap between young people and politics with the following projects:
- Children's Town Councils: senior primary school pupils learn to make choices in local politics;
- Youth debates: enabling young people's opinions on particular subjects to be heard;
- Palmtop survey: a fun way of ascertaining young people’s opinions using palmtop computers. Easy for them to use and with quick results;
- Mock elections for schoolchildren. On the Internet and in written form;
- Youth Participation Monitoring Tool: the IPP has developed this to monitor; municipalities' participation scores using a questionnaire. Tips and suggestions are then given on how to raise the level;
- Training courses: a variety of courses for interested youngsters, e.g. 'Lobbying and fund-raising in Europe' and Media Training (both in association with the National Youth Council);
- Training courses: preparing young people already active in society to supervise groups on youth projects (peer group education).
IPP is also active internationally. In Slovakia and Turkey we are implementing projects to help achieve a more balanced representation of men and women in democratic systems. These projects are targeted at women in general but specifically at women’s organisations, other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), political parties and government agencies.


Blog Posting Number: 538

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