|▲ Deutscher Bundestag, the national parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany.|
A team of reporters from the University Media Center of Dongguk visited Germany and Spain from June 28th to July 9th to report the young people’s participation in politics. In Germany, the team visited Junge Union Deutchlands (Young Union of Germany) and Jusos. They are the youth organizations of the main two parties of Germany, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD.)
There are more than 90 out of 620 members of the Bundestag, which is the federal level of constitutional and legislative body in Germany, are below the age of 40 with the youngest, 18.
One of the factors that allowed such active involvement of young people in political field is that the each party consists of youth organization and raises young politicians from teenagers. The organizations keep themselves independent from the party, sometimes serving as the left-wing of the party itself.
Easy accessibility, discuss, and discuss
“If you become a member of the SPD, immediately, you also become a member of Jusos. But you can also be a member only in the youth organization,” said Leonard von Galen, the International Secretary of Jusos. This applies to all the other youth organizations of the parties in Germany. If you want to become a member of youth organization, but not of the party, you are free to do so. The engagement is allowed from the age of 14 to 35.
Easy accessibility is also supported by the systems and structures of the organizations. Each organization of the party is divided into different levels: national, state, and district levels. They are spread throughout Germany, in about 300 to 500 (differs by parties) sub-districts, and people just gather to talk about politics and organize youth clubs and parties.
In terms of Jusos Berlin (JB), each sub-district of JB gather every two weeks with different topics and discuss to find their position. Also, every half year, JB meets up for a congress. They are also extended to universities by organizing programs, although they cannot meet on campus since parties are not allowed to be active in school in Germany.
Easy accessibility actually allowed young people’s participation in politics easier. Junge Union of CDU and CSU, in fact have about 120,000 members, being the largest youth organization in the world.
Voice of youth heard in party
Young politicians do not seem to be neglected in elections. Hartmut Koshyk, a member of federal parliament of Germany, said, “For more than 30 years, all political parties have had young candidates for parliamentary elections.” Youth organizations of the parties of Germany actually get various opportunities to meet with key people of parties and have talks and discussions with them. Christian Kreiser, the international secretary of Junge Union, said, “Because a lot of members of parliament, about 40 members, are the JU, we get to have many contacts with them.” In fact, many chairpersons of Junge Union became the members of the parliament.
The organizations also work as the “left-wing of the party.” Instead of just following the decision of the party, they sometimes go against and strive to convince them to accept their voice. Jusos Berlin, to be specific, was able to persuade the party regarding the program for the following election in September. Jusos Berlin asserted for requiring state to give a minimum of three job offers so that no one is left behind when they finish school. The state first denied their proposals, but after they made efforts continuously, the state accepted the proposal to be one of the points in election programs.
Little by little, making changes in society
Although it is hard for the youth organization themselves to make a big, systematical change in society, they are posing certain impacts on their society. In the beginning of the 2000s, when the tuition fees were introduced for the first time, Jusos was one of the organizations that led a movement opposing to pay to be educated. As the demonstration gets bigger, the SPD then decided to withdraw the decision.
Leon Redlinger, the representative of Juso Hoschul Gruppen (the university student group of Jusos), said, “If you ask me whether I have the feeling that I have changed something big, then my honest answer is ‘no,’ but there are certain things where you as a political activist feel that you have achieved something.” Regarding the student politics at the Humbolt University, the refugees coming from Syria and from other countries to Germany were not allowed to come into the university. However, the Juso Hochschul Gruppen made a lot of force and actually led the refugees to be educated in the university.
Youth organizations, in fact, was one of the methods young people in Germany used in order to create their own opinions in society. With such efforts, they were able to maintain the voice of young people from the older generations, and to, little by little, make changes in society.
Annika Klose - Chairperson of Jusos Berlin
“Our party leader back then, actually, sat down with me for three hours to talk about our election program. Leading figures of the party take time, they care, and they think it is important. I think it is also a way to support us by having an open ear to our ideas.”
Ruben Schuster - Federal board member of Junge Union
“General educations are about collecting the knowledge and information, but it is politics that use this information to create them to get own opinion.”
Leon Redlinger - Representative of Juso Hoschul Gruppen
“It is necessary for young people to engage themselves politically also at the university. That is because the university has to be a place where politics and especially democratic principles have to have great importance.”
Christian Kreiser - International Secretary of Junge Union
“A lot of people think that youth politics is just considering the youth or young people right now. But it’s not about it. It is about the future. It is about the past, about everything.”
Leonard von Galen - International Secretary of Jusos
“You cannot say I am not interested in politics because politics are interested in you. Housing, education, etc. are decided by politics. Since politics are interested in me, I have to be interested in politics. ”
|▲ Pablo Iglesias, the Secretary General of Podemos, is delivering a speech at the citizen assembly on the 15th of November, 2014.|
/Photography from Podemos
Podemos: Digital Media, Encouraging Youth Politics
“Yes, We Can.” That is the meaning of Podemos, the newly found left-wing political party by Pablo Iglesias, who is only 37-years-old. Active support was made among Spanish young adults struggling with unemployment. With the usage of digital media, such supports grew rapidly and Podemos was able to attract many young people to politics.
Youth unemployment rate reaching 50 percent
The situations of the young people in Spain have been confronted with being similar to that of the ones in Korea. The youth participation in politics arose with the break of 2008 crisis and 15-M Indignados Movement in 2011. According to Eurostat, the unemployment rate of 16 to 24-years-old in Spain reached 52.34 percent in 2012. Most of the constituting members of the movement were the young people who were searching for jobs or were earning less than 300 euros a month.
Professor Irene Martin Cortes in the department of Political Science, Autonomous University of Madrid, said, “Most participants of the movement were the university students. They were struggling with finding jobs or getting sufficient amount of salaries even when they got the high level of education.”
Using digital media to make a party
Such movement served as a trigger to bring people to politics. Professor Laura Tedesco of Saint Louis Madrid Campus said, “After 2008 crisis and as the worst economic crisis continued from 2009 to 2010, people noticed that no political party was advocating the situations of youth.” Podemos is one of the youth parties that was created three years after the movement, 2014.
Podemos in fact created the party even by using digital media. For defining organizational, political principles of the party, including the resolutions, citizens were also allowed to participate in. The citizen assembly in November, 2014, was open to all people and were able to vote on the scene by using applications.
Professor Tedesco claimed, “These youth parties basically use a lot of social media and put information on the web that is directed to themselves. The topics are concentrated into the problems of youth unemployment, the sufferings that young people feel more identifiable with this type of political parties.”
For better effects on using digital media
Yet, there are concerns regarding using digital media in decision making that such method is only advantageous to younger generation with the ability to use high-tech devices. A member of the social media team of Podemos, Marina Hornigold, said, “I think we are in a process to get more people to use social media. It is not just because young people who are already used to using them will get older, but even older people will get used to that.”
Despite the advancement of social media in politics, some say that only using social media can be inefficient. Professor Cortes mentioned, “Social media may just intensify those who were already interested in it. Instead of wanting people to gain interest through media, you need to go participate in the activities.
»Interview with Emma Alvarez
(A member of the Social Media Team of Podemos)
Q. Could you please introduce yourself?
A.Hi, I’m Emma. I studied in Complutense University, Madrid. I have participated in Podemos since the end of 2014. I have been part of the social media team and the gender equality team in Podemos.
Q. What made you join in Podemos?
A. Like before, the socialist and the conservative party in Spain, the way they and the media acted made it seem like there was a wall between people and politics. There was a lot of corruption already going on and so much impunity. What Podemos has done I think is that things do not have to be like that. We can actually change. You can actually come into a platform and engage in politics and represents people without having to come into that corrupt structure of the two main parties.
Q. How does Podemos use social media?
A.We use Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, Appgree (we usually use that in processes where we need a lot of participation for voting, it is a kind of app that lets people vote on complex issues very easily like you ask a question, people throw in options of answers to that question, you can put your own options, and then after about a minute or give longer time to let people vote.), Instagram, Reddit, and Loomio.
The Agora: We have various means of voting. The Agora, we have not used it for a long time, but we had voted on things like the names of the party, name of the assembly, of the circles, and those actually ended up actually being applied.
Loomio: For Loomio, we used it for meetings like reunions between people who are in different parts. It was used for somebody who are just out of work and could not get to the meeting. I have not actually used Loomio actively but people used it much more in the past, in the beginning of the organization.
Reddit: They still use Reddit a lot in a specific platform that is called Plaza Podemos. Inside the website of the Podemos, there is a platform where people debate and then the most voted comments go to the top, so those are the central things that people are voting on the page at the moment. People that most use Reddit usually are the people that are politically active.
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