Youth movements try to counter political corruption in Eastern Europe

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By Lisa Hladik World News Editor Political corruption is rampant in Eastern Europe. However, citizens are trying to fight back against their state establishments Corruption has been an ongoing issue in Eastern Europe. In particular, it is deeply entrenched in a number of formerly Communist countries. As a result of the problem, the terminology associated with the national government is “state capture,” meaning the leading political institutions are in the hands of corrupt politicians that have been nearly impossible to oust. The current political climate is feeding into the power of these corrupt leaders. Populism and nationalism are on the rise, which has allowed these powerful leaders to maintain their positions and consolidate their power. The major proponents who have been standing up against this corruption are largely comprised of the younger members of society. Their anticorruption campaign is infused with dreams of taking back their countries for the next generation. In Slovakia, the cause for anticorruption is being led by a pair of eighteen-year-old Slovakians: David Straka and Karolina Farska. Their actions have fueled their peers in other neighboring nations to take similar stands against corruption. Straka and Farska are using new tools of this generation to spearhead their political fight; the two are using social media to spread their message. They have also made several appearances on their local media. Through these means, the two were able to organize an anti-corruption march in mid-April that drew 10,000 participants. As part of their day march, Straka and Farska made a detour to government offices. There, they hand-delivered a single page manifesto demanding the resignations of the interior minister and national police chief as well as full and transparent investigations of numerous recent corruption scandals. As much as the two high school students are trying to make a stand to improve conditions for their generation, they are also looking out for their parents’ generation. They have stated that their parents deserve respect from the state, which should not continue to steal from them. Even though Straka and Farska are so young, they see the importance of their campaign to their own lives. They have reached a critical juncture where they must plan out their futures. They are facing a question similar to many youth in Slovakia. Should they remain in a country wrought with corruption of go abroad to escape it? This question is being faced by youths in a number of Eastern European countries, including Serbia, Poland, Macedonia, and others. For almost the entire month of February, Romania was wracked with protests as citizens took to the streets to demand the repeal of laws the public felt enabled political corruption to continue. The youth in Russia also largely led protests that erupted there in March. In Hungary, another youth movement led efforts that ended in the nation abandoning its bid to host the 2024 Olympics because protestors feared that the event would be a nesting ground from which more corruption would grow. While these protests are aimed at fighting corruption, they are also fueled by a desire to combat new government initiatives. These initiatives are largely regarded as tools by which the current political parties will be able to entrench themselves in the government, serve the interests of oligarchs as well as restrict non-governmental organizations and the independent news media. The fight against corruption and push against these initiatives has proved difficult because corrupt politicians have the money and the power. However, the push back by the youth has provided a spark of hope, a concept that Straka and Farska believe in. This pair of Slovak youths have name their movement after a popular pop anthem called “The Deed Did Not Happen.” The name is a slap at the ineffectiveness of typical corruption investigations, which often end with the verdict that corruption did not occur. Straka and Farska are hopeful for the future. However, if the government does not yield to their demands, they recognize the need to strategize a new plan of action for the future.

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