Disinterest, alienation and separation. Any of these adjectives serve to perfectly characterize young people in relation to national politics. Either because they do not feel represented by political parties or because they are accommodated to the social and economic status in which they live, there are many young people who currently do not have an active civic participation or do not enforce their interests. However, against this background of political discredit, there is a way that the most dissatisfied have decided to adopt to change the direction of the country: the Youth Wings.
They paste posters around urban centres, they distribute information at the entrance to universities, and they organize lectures for clarification. The members of young political structures try to make their mark in strategic locations to attract the attention of students, unemployed young people or trainees working in precarious jobs. There are various strategies that are carried out in various ways, more or less frequent according to the patterns which regulate each structure. JCP, JP, JS and JSD follow different ideologies, but seek a common goal. Finding solutions to overcome the problems of young people is the challenge that Francisca Goulart (JCP), Sérgio Lopes (JP), Pedro Sousa (JS) and Carlos Eduardo Reis (JSD) have challenged themselves to do when they joined Youth Wings. Leading these structures in the district of Braga are these young people who were not sitting on the sofa waiting for the change. Motivated by family, encouraged by friends or simply for self-awareness that the country needed new ideas to resolve the crisis, these representatives explained to the “Juventudes Partidárias” in a major news coverage, their journey to reach the Jotas and all the responsibilities, difficulties and motivations that have characterized this journey. Also, the Left Bloc/Bloco de Esquerda (BE) is represented in the range of political parties with young people. Although they question the role of the Youth Wings, the structure this party presents shows the modern spirit that they usually try to reveal to the public sphere. Ana Bárbara is the coordinator of the BE of Braga and, to defend the interests of young people, she considered that there is no need to be a Jota. She does not understand the age division of the political agenda and, to this militant of the BE party, these structures are “small schools to learn how to do politics.”
She is not the only one to think this way. José Soeiro, member of parliament of the BE party, Carlos Gonçalves, student at University of Minho, and Rita Araújo, researcher at the same university, have admitted that they question the role of these structures, identifying them as a stairway to climb in the political world, declaring themselves as anti-youth wings. This was just one of the issues discussed amongst the representatives. Invited by the “Juventudes Partidárias”, the five leaders, in this moment of ideological confrontation about what they think is the role of the structures that they represent, debated at the RUM. The importance of young people in politics and the defence of the Jotas as a means of learning were the highlight of the debate.
Within this context, we also decided to hear the voice of the most experienced. Jerónimo de Sousa, Nuno Melo, Pedro Soares, António José Seguro, Francisco Louçã e Augusto Santos Silva answered five standard questions about the role played by Juventudes partidárias in the current political context. In spite of presenting different perspectives, the facts are unquestionable. If the Jotas are a means to fight for and to improve the social and economic status of the country, these are also ways for a rapid rise in the political system. To explore this fact, the “Juventudes Partidárias” has talked to Pedro Passos Coelho, Paulo Portas e Ricardo Mendes, town councillor for the CDS in Famalicão Town Hall, examples of successful ex-youth wings members.
Jotas in campaign: what is their role?
But politics does not only consist of ideas, especially in times of campaigning. The Jotas are the proof. Waving flags, distributing stickers, sweatshirts and hats had a positive effect on election night. Jotas were fundamental during the election period. They did not stop during the campaigns and followed their representatives from north to south, stimulating the various points where they passed by. Differently, but with a spirit equally effusive, a few years ago several young people also advocated political ideologies. Chatting with former active youths during the period of PREC, the “Juventudes Partidárias” realized that there are still stories to tell of that period characterized by political instability.
What do people think about the Youth Wings? Are they informed about their role? That’s what we tried to learn through a vox-pop in Braga, and the answers are surprising. The professor of Political Science at the University of Minho, José Palmeira, also shared his opinion on the subject with us, he does not consider alienation a solution to solve the problems. In an extended interview, the teacher presents two alternatives for young people who feel they are not represented: the integration in political parties to make political activity more attractive or, on the other hand, young people could create their own parties to defend their interests.