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Frontpage News 2009 Polish campaign to vote in EP elections

Heart of Europe poster.jpg

Polish campaign to vote in EP elections

A nationwide campaign to encourage Polish citizens to cast their vote in the European Parliament elections has named the Polish municipality Podkowa Leśna "the Heart of Europe" after recording Poland's highest voter turnout at 50.8 percent.

Over the last few days, Europe's citizens have come out to cast their vote in the 2009 elections for the European parliament. While voter turnout has decreased in every general election to the European Parliament since 1979, a slightly positive trend can this year be spotted in a few countries. Even if only 24.5 percent of the Polish electorate cast a ballot this year, this was nevertheless up 3.8 percentage points from the 2004 European election.

One of the main campaigners for a higher voter turnout in the build-up to this year`s election has been the 7 June Coalition. Supported by the EEA and Norway Grants through the Polish NGO fund, the coalition is behind the campaign "Pepek Europy", or "Heart of Europe," aimed to encourage Polish citizens to cast their vote. Spurred on by a successful campaign during the 2007 national elections, the 7 June Coalition have over the last months organised a large-scale information campaign to mobilise young Polish voters.

"We decided to make this a competition between the Polish municipalities, to see who would end up with the highest voter turnout", said Jarosław Bełdowski, who is in charge of the campaign. With 50.8 percent of Podkowa Leśna`s voting population casting their ballot, the municipality will now receive a memorial plaque naming them the "Heart of Europe."

According to an EU-wide survey commissioned by the European Parliament this April, students were the least likely to vote at the European Parliament elections. For this reason, "Heart of Europe" was specifically targeted at students and young people. Mock elections were held at upper secondary schools and universities across Poland, with some 200,000 pupils and 10,000 students participating. Through the campaign website, voters were encouraged to get involved through registering their intended vote and the region they would cast their vote in. The website also provided information about the election, from practical issues for voters, to materials raising awareness about the upcoming vote.

Around 300 NGOs joined the campaign, spreading the word through information materials and events. Local and national newspapers, TV stations and radio stations also contributed, thorough free-of-charge advertisements encouraging people to cast their vote on the 7 June. "We are very pleased with the campaign and how it went," said Beldowski. "In the next week we will carry out polls allowing us to see what effect our campaign had on young voters."

Campaign website

Watch the campaign video here: