Image copyright thebaddogs Image caption Ilya, Alfie and Lana Van Dib each want to stand for a seat on Graz’s parliament
Two teenagers have joined a push to set up a coalition in Austria to challenge an electoral system they believe has been effectively “rigged” in favour of the ruling Social Democrats.
They are fighting to take their first-past-the-post (FPTP) system away from national politics, arguing that it concentrates too much power in the hands of one party.
The boys belong to an unlikely group – a group of Austrian teenagers who are fighting to change the country’s electoral system to one that favours proportional representation.
Having attended a conference in Austria run by the organisation Timisoara Republic, several of the teenagers met Angela Graz, a 60-year-old women’s rights activist who is now the state secretary for women and youth affairs in the Austrian Ministry of the Interior.
Image copyright Sibylle Esteri Image caption “I had no idea that young people could join such an idea,” said Angela Graz, the state secretary for women and youth affairs in the Austrian Ministry of the Interior
She spoke to them about how her country’s system of direct election of its parliament is gradually giving more power to a small coalition of Social Democrats and centrist parties.
The introduction of FPTP in the early 1980s was designed to keep the far-right from gaining too much support by giving the vote to small parties that get more votes than others.
In fact, in every election since it was introduced, the winning party is the same party – the Social Democrats – while at least one coalition partner has been the conservative People’s Party (OVP).
‘They’re like wild animals’
As a result, what was intended to be a parliamentary democracy has turned into a largely anti-democratic system, which champions coalition parties.
“It’s not that young people are crazy, it’s the system,” said Alfie from Tirol, a town in the German-speaking region of central Europe, who said his rebellion against the system started when he was just 16 years old.
“We can’t keep our political system like this forever,” he added.
Graz admitted that her government had been sympathetic to their cause but said a proportional electoral system would improve the chances of young people entering parliament.
“Young people can’t be part of a system that is essentially discriminating against them. They need a chance. They’ve never been part of any of the machinations of politics before and they’re being completely cheated out of it,” she said.
“Young people are like wild animals,” she added. “If you snub them or turn your back on them they will react in such a way that you will regret it.”
The girls say they are so enthusiastic about the “spectre of revolution” that they are considering standing as candidates for the new coalition government and bringing to a close the system they see as inherently corrupt.