We strongly believe that participation of citizens in political processes and the role of the youth, eager to build the future, is crucial for democratic development of Georgia. One of the key indicators of politically active society is active participation in elections.
That’s why Europe-Georgia Institute decided to continue our tradition rooted in 2016, and with support from the International Republican Institute and the USAID, we implemented a Get Out and Vote Campaign “Your Voice – Our Future 2020”. Preceding the parliamentary elections inGeorgia in October, the project united more than 120 young volunteers from all over Georgia in September-October 2020. The participants initiated and carried out projects crafted by themselves to encourage people to participate in elections.
Implementation of this project and involvement of youth was critical because of several reasons. Absenteeism and nihilism is a serious problem in Georgia. Significant part of the public within our transitional democracy have a nihilistic attitude towards political processes and institutions, negatively affecting the turnover of elections. Situation when barely half of the total electorate comes to polling stations is not rare in Georgia. Focusing the project on youth and choosing youth as the main driver of the project was even more important. According to different polls citizens aged under 24 are the least active part of the electorate, and the best way to reach out was to empower them to create projects themselves.
The participants had a great opportunity to realize the importance of active electoral participation and to spread this message to others. The volunteers had to contemplate and understand the essence of the idea of electoral participation for themselves at first, and then share it with others. We hoped that participants would be able to share this idea with hundreds of thousands of other Georgians, encouraging them to get out and vote, which turned out to be a huge success.
Following an application-based online open competition we selected volunteer groups from all over Georgia. These groups were tasked to craft a creative, large-scale, encouraging project urging people to participate in the upcoming elections of October 2020 and targeting their own local community. The local community targeting allowed us to avoid any additional chances to spread the virus – the projects were implemented in their own community, where all participants lived. Our strict requirement was to ensure that all implemented projects had been in full compliance with COVID 19 regulations issued by the National Center of the Disease Control of Georgia, and we added another safety level – pre-moderation of all projects and ideas. This attitude, though resource-consuming, allowed us to ensure strict implementation of COVID regulations.
During the whole month preceding the parliamentary elections on 31st of October those groups all over Georgia carried out the activities in their own communities and spread the message among citizens in different municipalities. This message reminded voters that each vote counts and is crucially important for a democracy.
Every project and every activity was shared on the Europe-Georgia Institute page on Facebook. Participants also put enormous effort to ensure that local media outlets invited them to speak about the project, and several programs were recorded by local media outlets highlighting these activities. 30 groups were selected based on reports provided by them following the implementation of their projects.
The winners were invited to participate in the School of Democracy. This winter school was initially planned in December, 2020, but we had to postpone it due to COVID situation in the country.
31 groups from 18 municipalities of 9 regions planned and implement entirely different activities with the common goal of promoting participation of citizens in electoral processes. The projects were implemented both in person and digitally. The content of these projects was diverse, consisting of animated stories, posters, webinars, giving out sweets with quotations attached on them about electoral processes, in person trainings and meetings with local community members, video speeches and even “political date”.
One of the groups from Georgia’s capital – Tbilisi, consisting of Ani Tutisani, Nino Javakhishvili and Giorgi Ekaladze decided to implement an interesting “social experiment”. They put a table in the middle of the street, lit candles, created a romantic atmosphere and organized a “political date” with random citizens, encouraging them to participate in elections. At the end of the “date” random passers by received a pin with the question – “Will you come with me to the elections?”.
Another group of volunteers from Gori – Nini Omadze, Roba Osadze and Sopho Mtiulishvili decided to walk in the streets of Gori and discuss the importance of citizen’s role in politics and elections with random passers by. To encourage them even more they decided to give away candies with attached slogans: “Your Voice is our future!” and “Let’s Go to Elections!” and others.
Volunteers from Keda municipality – Marika Broladze, Tornike Maisuradze and Keti Turmanidze together with the other activities decided to remake a famous Georgian fairy-tale called “Flea and Ant”, drew illustrations and offered new interpretation of the story. In their interpretation the story developed around the flea that used the high turnout of voters in order to save the ant. The content was shared on Facebook.
Based on Facebook stats, the posts about the projects shared on the Facebook page of the Europe-Georgia Institute accumulated a total number of 166 755 views, without any single paid boost. Besides Facebook information about the activities was spread by local media such as “Imervizia” and nation-wide outlets such as Batumelebi and On.Ge.
The message “Your Voice – Our Future” reached hundreds of thousands of citizens all over Georgia and we believe that just like 2016, but this time with support from the IRI and USAID, we did our best to contribute to the promotion of citizens’ active participation in politics and in electoral processes.