Young people are better represented in this year’s election manifestos, but there is significant room for better positioning of youth

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) points out that, unlike some previous election cycles, participants of the recently held parliamentary elections in Montenegro have devoted a certain level of attention to the position of children and young people in Montenegro through their election manifestos, proposing measures aimed at improving the quality of their lives. This refers to nearly 80% of the total number of participants, or 12 candidate lists, with the note that one list did not have a written election manifesto.

The percentage of young people represented in the election manifestos varied from a maximum of 17.40% (HGI), followed by 11% (the list led by DPS and the “United and period” coalition), then 9.75% (Albanian Alliance) and 9.15% (SNP-DEMOS), 5.80% (Movement Europe Now), 4.80% (Albanian Forum), 3.8% (PzP), 3.50% (Reversal), up to the least 2.40% (Bosniak Party) and 1.30% (civic list YES. We can – for a civic Montenegro). The content of the measures also varied.

Young people received the most attention in the election manifesto of the Croatian Civil Initiative (HGI), which states that young people, in addition to acquiring knowledge, should develop the ability to be independent, think creatively, and communicate effectively. HGI further states that they will advocate for financial investments in sports, explaining that sports can only be developed among children and young people with state support. With the observation that society is exposed to media sensationalism, HGI promises to work towards teaching young people tolerance, understanding, empathy, and morality. They also state that it is their obligation to strengthen the Croatian identity among young people.

In the manifesto of the coalition “TOGETHER” led by the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), promises are made for faster access to employment for young people, as well as the transformation of the Professional Training for Graduates into a Credit Programme (grant) for long-term employment of university graduates. Furthermore, the establishment of a special fund for financing youth business projects, with greater investments in youth development projects through the support of a credit-guarantee fund for risky projects, which should generate support for young entrepreneurs and young innovators, is stated. The manifesto also envisions scholarships of 1000 euros for the top 100 doctoral and postdoctoral candidates, 10,000,000 euros for studying at top world universities through the Academic Excellence Fund, as well as higher wages for young people through the exemption of a portion of taxes and contributions for employing of persons aged up to 30 year.

In the election manifesto of the coalition “United and period” (Right Montenegro, Free Montenegro, Christian Democratic Movement, Democratic Serbian Party, and Movement for Pljevlja), the focus is on allowances for newborns. They promise allowances of 2,400 euros for the second child, payable in 24 monthly instalments, 9,000 euros for the third child, paid in 60 monthly instalments, and 12,000 euros for the fourth child, payable in 60 monthly instalments. This coalition advocates for schools without peer violence. Also, they promised the introduction of cash rewards for students who complete their master’s studies on time as a measure to stimulate the establishment of small businesses and further development.

The manifesto of the Albanian Alliance emphasizes improving the quality of education, promoting science and technology transfer, strengthening vocational education and acquiring transferable skills within young people, while they perceive fiscal benefits and reward packages for companies employing young people as a solution to reducing youth unemployment. Additionally, they highlight that their priority will be the development of entrepreneurship among young people, education and support in economic activities, as well as training programmes in managerial and administrative skills. They promise to invest in specialized start-up incubators to facilitate the establishment and operation of youth enterprises. This is also one of the rare manifestos that recognizes the importance of youth participation in politics and public life, as they prioritize the involvement of young people through their representation on candidate lists for municipal assemblies and make efforts for young people to be part of the decision-making process.

The manifesto of the SNP-DEMOS coalition “For You” emphasizes the presentation of results so far, specifically the successful implementation of scholarships for 150 young athletes. In the promises of this coalition is stated that they will provide school transportation for every child from rural areas and they announced the construction of new student dormitories, kindergartens, and schools, as well as an increase in child support – 50 euros for the first child and 100 euros for each subsequent child.

The Movement “Europe Now”, in a separate section related to youth, states that this party will advocate for the improvement of platforms where young people can discuss important community issues and communicate with elected representatives at the local and state levels, such as the Youth Parliament project. Furthermore, they say that they will enable young people to fulfil their cultural, social, and scientific potential in their own country and provide them with conditions for professional and personal success. In addition, they emphasize that they will improve the transition of young people from the education system to the labour market through adequate incentive measures.

The manifesto of the Albanian Forum highlights the promotion of young people, giving them opportunities and space to contribute to cultural, social, economic, and political life. They promise to provide particular support to talented young people regardless of the field in order to achieve their success in their homeland, thus preventing the “brain drain”.

The Movement for Changes proposed certain measures to improve the quality of young people’s lives, indicating that young people should be perceived as a social potential, not as a problem, and that they must be more involved in decision-making processes concerning this population. This party also proposed an increase in the amount of student loans, especially for students studying in deficit faculties abroad. They also envision introduction of incentive measures for employers who hire young people and provision of housing for young people through various programmes for purchasing apartments under favourable conditions, directly from developers or contractors, with precisely determined annuities with a minimum interest rate, significantly lower compared to those offered by commercial banks.

In the election manifesto of the Reversal movement, a certain set of measures that would contribute to improving the quality of life for young people is outlined. Thus, inter alia, it includes the creation of a youth development fund/hub aimed at providing assistance in starting businesses through initial capital and mentorship during the first two years of operation. Additionally, one of the measures refers to housing policy and envisions the establishment of a component focused on supporting young people in resolving this important issue.

The Bosniak Party (BS) through its manifesto proposes subsidies at the local level in order to provide support for addressing housing issues of young married couples. They also state that they will advocate for providing free textbooks for elementary school pupils, as well as increased funding for the maintenance of existing preschool and school facilities, particularly in rural areas, the construction of new facilities in urban areas, and equipping them with new teaching materials and resources. The BS believes that greater investments in sports facilities, including the equipment of existing ones and the construction of new facilities, especially in underdeveloped areas, are needed.

Manifesto of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) stated that the fundamental obligation of the state is to provide free kindergarten for all children and thus show concern for parents who often cannot afford the necessary funds.

Manifesto of the coalition “Yes. We can – for a civic Montenegro”, promises the creation of a stimulating institutional framework for the development of entrepreneurship, especially among young people.

CCE notes that the political parties participating in the recent parliamentary elections have devoted a certain level of attention to young people in their election manifestos, but also that there is a lot of need for substantive, especially actionable, improvement in the positioning of young people. It remains to be seen whether the political entities that will hold power in the coming period will implement the given promises regarding youth and their position in Montenegro, thereby repair the eroded trust that young people have in political parties.

Nikola Obradović, Project assistant