On Wednesday 2 November 2011 the youngsters of the Permanent Forum of Political Parties (Foro Permanente de Partidos Políticos) and the leaders of the Supreme Electoral Tribune (Tribunal Supremo Electoral) organised an event together to stimulate voting and political participation amongst Guatemalan youth. The event was realised with the help of the NIMD and the Royal Netherlands embassy in Guatemala.
During the event, several speakers lined out the importance of young people getting involved in politics. NIMD coordinator and representative Álvaro Díaz, stated that young people are the moral yeast of the system and that their energy should be canalised into the development of the country and the construction of the democracy. He added that Guatemala asks all its citizens to contribute to this development, but that everyone should personally decide in what form. He furthermore encouraged young people to construct and improve political parties. Although political participation amongst youngsters in Guatemala is not particularly low, most of this participation takes place within social organisations and not so much in political parties.
A ‘call to vote’ for the second round in the elections came from the president judge of the Supreme Electoral Tribune, María Eugenia Villagrán. She underlined the role of the youth by stressing their importance in the first round of elections both in eligibility and voting. Also present at the event was the ambassador of the Royal Netherlands embassy in Guatemala, Jan-Jaap van de Velde. The ambassador told the audience how he was very much impressed by 2 phenomena during the elections. First of all he noticed the large queues of voters during the very early hours of the day and secondly he was impressed by all the young volunteers helping out at the voting centers. Furthermore the ambassador stated that votes of the youth should not be underestimated in the construction of democracy, given that youngsters are full of hope and illusions.
Edgar Barrios, secretary of the Board of Directors of the Commission of Young people in the Permanent Forum of Political Parties (Comisión de Jóvenes del Foro Permanente de Partidos Políticos), quoted from the ancient Guatemalan book of wisdom Popol Vuh by stating in respect to the elections: "may everyone rise and may no one stay behind". He added that the relatively high number of youngsters in eligible places is an important step in further deepening Guatemala’s democracy. The participation of young people in the Guatemalan democracy is indeed of great importance, even more so because around 70% of the population is under 30 years of age. Almost 45% of the people alleged to vote these elections could be considered ‘young’.
The main event of the evening was a presentation by the famous mountaineer Jaime Viñals. The mountaineer, who climbed the 7 highest mountain summits in the world, gave a presentation on the importance of living day by day while practicing values such as discipline, perseverance, faith, patience and a positive attitude. According to Viñals these were some of the values that helped him reach all these mountaintops. On a political note he invited the ones present to vote for Guatemala’s future leaders.
The band 4 cuerdas was given the honor to wrap up the event and they also, being young students, called out to the public to go and vote on 6 November 2011.