Young Party Leaders Commit to Violence-Free Elections in Georgia

  • Gretchen Birkle

On October 8, Georgians will go to the polls to elect their parliament members.

In many countries around the world, elections can be trigger points for violence.  Citizens who feel alienated or disenfranchised, or simply cheated on, may reduce their anger to violence, including physical harm of others, or destruction of property, coercion, or intimidation of voters.  There are too frequent examples in many parts of the world of young and old alike resorting to violence to make a political point.  Indeed, already in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in the days leading to the election an explosion aimed at an opposition candidate and wounding passers-by has unfortunately marred the process.    

To advance the electoral process in their country and better mitigate possible outbreaks of violence, a group of young political party members in Georgia has endorsed a code of conduct to prove that, if they have anything to do with it, parliamentary elections in Georgia will be peaceful and respectful. 

Youth wings of 14 political parties across the political spectrum have been working with the International Republican Institute in Georgia on leadership and campaign training in advance of the elections.  The collaboration and willingness of the young political activists to work together on common training programs and themes has sent an important message about the positive role young people can play in the political process.  The hallmark of this effort was their agreement on and joint signing of the Political Party Youth Code of Conduct in August 2016.

The Political Party Youth Code of Conduct is an exceptional document, one that was drafted entirely by the young party activists themselves.  The Code of Conduct attests to their common goal to support democratic development in Georgia, along with political pluralism and equal opportunity for all political parties to share their views freely and without impediment.  The party youth organizations go on to condemn using hate speech, violence, personal insults and any manifestation of insults against opponents.  They also commit to resolving any problems through cooperation, to respect the effort and hard work of their counterparts, and pledge to not destroy each other’s campaign materials.  Most importantly, the Code of Conduct states they will do the aforementioned in order to ‘raise the level of political culture and reach high standards of democracy’ in Georgia. 

Many of the young Georgian activists are part of IRI’s global youth initiative, Generation Democracy, and are now connected to thousands of young people around the world who hold similar ideals.  Closer to home, these young activists know that the Political Party Youth Code of Conduct has the potential to influence party politics long after these elections are over.  It signals the commitment of a new generation of young Georgians to continue building the foundations of democracy in their country.  These young Georgian party members understand that peaceful elections are an important component of that foundation. 

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