Rock the vote campaign shoots to end young voters' apathy

The lack of political activity among many young voters between 18 and 25 and their low turnout in the 1994 national elections led Nadácia pre občiansku spoločnosť (NOS), a Slovak non-government organization (NGO) affiliated with The Foundation For a Civil Society, to implement a Voter Motivation and Awareness Campaign. Known as Rock Volieb, or Rock the Vote, the movement is aimed especially at newly eligible voters.
Marek Kapusta, Rock Volieb's program officer, is convinced that young people's apathy toward politics is a problem common to all democracies. "Basically, it's very similar to the rest of the world," he said. "Young people show low interest in public issues like elections."



The lack of political activity among many young voters between 18 and 25 and their low turnout in the 1994 national elections led Nadácia pre občiansku spoločnosť (NOS), a Slovak non-government organization (NGO) affiliated with The Foundation For a Civil Society, to implement a Voter Motivation and Awareness Campaign. Known as Rock Volieb, or Rock the Vote, the movement is aimed especially at newly eligible voters.

Marek Kapusta, Rock Volieb's program officer, is convinced that young people's apathy toward politics is a problem common to all democracies. "Basically, it's very similar to the rest of the world," he said. "Young people show low interest in public issues like elections."

However, Kapusta said, Slovakia has one unique feature, which lies in the fact that while in other western countries young people just don't care, in Slovakia they feel that even if they did, it wouldn't change anything. "There is a strong perception among young voters in Slovakia that their collective voice does not factor into decisions made by government bodies," reads the initiative's program summary.

Rock the Vote is a world program that started in the USA in 1991 to try and get young people to vote. Since then, the initiative has spread all over the world. It aims to spark voter interest by using celebrities, like music groups and singers, who are a more important part of kids'lives than are politicians.

Heather Laycock, NOS's Development Director, said that the movement in Slovakia and in the USA were quite different. "America is a lot bigger, so the campaign is much more based on media. [The Slovak Rock the Vote] is a grass-roots campaign, which is closer to the voter," she said, adding that "support from NGOs for Rock Volieb is immense. It wouldn't happen in [western countries]."

Although Rock Volieb endorses no particular political parties or ideologies and receives no funding from any political body, the movement was hammered on March 18 by the daily Slovenská Republika, a newspaper sympathetic to the ruling political party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) led by Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar. In an article headlined "Another Act of Discreditation On The Horizon" the newspaper claimed that "part of the... campaign will be based on presenting opposition politicians on... TV Markíza and Radio Twist."

But Kapusta took exception to the charge. "We will never cooperate with any political party," he said. "That is not consistent with our mission."

Rock Volieb focuses on the most endangered species among the electorate, about 300,000 newly eligible voters between 18-21, who represent fully 10 percent of Slovakia's electorate. According to a poll conducted by the Institute For Public Affairs, only 32 percent of new voters are interested in politics, while more than 40 percent are either undecided or don't want to vote at all.

This is why the initiative will focus on concerts featuring Slovak and international artists, as well as other events targeted at young voters, to spread its non-partisan message about the importance of voting.

On April 20, Rock Volieb launched its media campaign by officially announcing their partners, who include TV Markíza, Radio Twist and MTV Europe.

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