REFOM discusses the level of youth participation in Local Authorities’ elections - last two elections as indicators

In light of enhancing the participation of youth within Local Authorities, the Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development-REFORM held a public debate session to analyse the level of youth participation in the Local Authorities’ elections, while taking the last two elections as indicators. The session also aims to identify the reasons behind the reluctance of youth to run for the Local Authorities’ elections as well as the impact of tribal and community interventions on the engagement of youth in electoral processes.

Vice President of Hebron Municipality, Eng. Yousef Al-Jaabari, Political Science Professor at Hebron University, Dr. Bilal Al-Shobaki, Leader of the Democratic Front, Mr, Taha Nassar Al-Qeyadi, The Women Activist, Ms. Kholud Hassouneh, and a number of youth activists from Hebron attended the session.  

Digital Indicators

Eng. Yousef Al-Jabari started off the session by stating that the percentage of youth winners in Local Authorities’ elections has reached 19.5% for those aged between 25 and 35 years old, whereas winners aged above 45 years old constituted a percentage of 37%, which indicated an extreme decline from their percentage in 2012 elections, which marked 50%. Al-Jabari also recommended that youth’s efforts be allocated to activities that enhance their participation in all institutions. He also provided an example that demonstrates his own personal experience as a youth member in Local Authorities over the course of two consecutive elections due to his belief in the necessity of new strategies and programs that are responsive to the needs of youth as well as in the ability of youth to make a difference.

The reasons behind the reluctance of youth to participate in democratic processes

Dr. Bilal Al-Shoabki said that the reasons hindering youth from participating in the democratic process are many and are attributed mainly to the lack of systems that are responsive to their needs, the lack of analytical-based intellectual systems in family and schools as well as other cultural, social and economic impediments. However, the lack of youth’s participation in democratic processes does not necessarily indicate that they are absent from the national struggle. In fact, all of the above mentioned reasons lead to the youth’s lack of trust in political and social structures; thus, preventing them from participating in public life spheres.

Tribalism dominates the local elections at the expense of youth and women

The woman activist, Ms. Kholoud Hassouneh, attributed the reasons behind the limited participation of women and youth in local elections to social, cultural and economic factors. She also said that the degrading perception of women, as being unable to take on decision-making positions, as well as favoring tribalism in local elections, especially in villages, are hindering women and youth from participating effectively in local elections. Furthermore, Hassouneh added that the local elections, in its last two sessions, did not comply with the decision of the Central Council, which approved the quota of 30% of women's participation, and that the PLO factions did not take this percentage into consideration in their internal elections

Political parties and forming electoral lists

Mr. Taha Nassar reflected on the report that was conducted by the Central Committee of Elections, saying that the classification of the electoral lists are either partisan or independent, and that the last few sessions had winners from partisan backgrounds by 35% as opposed to 65% of independent winners, which leads to the regression of the role of political parties. On the other hand, when it comes to forming electoral lists, Nassar said that the reason behind youth’s lack of political participation lies in the negative practices of political parties, which obstructs youth form participating effectively, saying that “the parties participated in the last two elections through their families”. He also said that tribes have been winning the elections in local councils since 2012.

Youth participants - based on the importance of their political participation in local elections- called for the formation of electoral lists that enable youth to practice their rights in running, voting, representing their societies in local elections and voicing out their needs and concerns.

At the end of the session, participants asserted the necessity of reviewing the relative majority and the proportional representation aspects of the electoral system, and identifying the main determinants that have a real impact on this system in order to enhance democratic practices within elections. Participants also called for strengthening the role of parties in raising the awareness of youth on the importance of their political role as well as for developing programs that are responsive to their political and social needs, which will enable them to regain their trust in parties and raise their participation in compliance with the Palestinian Statute. Moreover, they recommended enhancing cooperation amongst parties, civil society institutions and the Central Elections Committee and promoting the role of media in raising citizens’ awareness on the importance of establishing a democratic system that respects differences.

This activity is part of The “Rooftop Debate – Drivers of Political Change” project aims to create a network of powerful social and political young leaders and equip them with supporting tools that enable them to create social change by directing them to find solutions to their problems and concerns, which promotes social cohesion, ensures pluralism and strengthens civil peace within society. The project also seeks to provide safe and interactive platforms that connect young activists with representatives of Government bodies and civil society organizations, in order to capacitate youth to voice out their concerns and engage in shaping public policies that are more responsive to their social and political needs.

This project is implemented in cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Foundation