Civil society organizations and local government elections 2019

Ökotárs- Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation, Civil College Foundation, With the Power of Humanity Foundation, and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union just published the summary report of a research they conducted in the framework of their joint project, which aims at analyzing and evaluating civil society engagement and activity around the 2019 municipal elections in order to later build support and development programs, training, and other tools based on these results. The research was made with activists and CSO members participating in the campaigns all over Hungary, and is composed of an online quantitative survey and, based on this, a series of qualitative focus group interviews based on the qualitative results.  

The online survey gave us valuable information about the activity of 28 organizations / groups. Their majority (about two-thirds) deemed their election-related activities successful: they highlighted voter mobilization, the organization of public forums and face-to-face meetings, participation in enumeration committees’ work, and the nomination of candidates as the kinds of activities that brought the most results. Less success with some activities (e.g. nomination workshops for locals) was caused by lack of time / money / energy, locals’ passivity and the hostile public environment. Most of the groups / organizations intend to be active in the next elections, too,  with a focus on activating local communities, public control of representatives, representation of local issues and election monitoring. 

Based on the results of processed data, the “typical” respondent of the surveyed population functions in the form of an association in a town for not longer than 5 years. Its membership is under 50 members, there are fewer than 10 persons in the active core, maximum 30 activists / volunteers work with them, and has 500 sympathizers at most. Its members and colleagues take decisions about their actions in most cases collectively. They used less than 100,000 HUF (~€300) for their election-related activities, while the key to their success was the ability to identify and highlighting important local issues and their direct links to voters. They are also open to future collaboration with other groups and organizations that deal with similar problems.

A total of 34 formal and informal civic organizations took part in the focus group interview series. Some of them are decade-old, locally known issue-based groups, others are new, in cases specifically established just before the elections, while some others have backgrounds in community organizing. The research focused on the practical aspects of mobilization/engagement related to the elections, so as to understand how decisions were made, how the groups operated during the campaign period, and why did a given group in a given election situation and local context choose the methods and activities they used, e.g. door-to-door, stands, public and street forums, guerilla actions, flyers of campaign videos. We wanted to find out how participants evaluated the different activities, what their experiences were, and what practical know-how must be taken into account during planning and implementation, e.g. in terms of cooperation with the political parties, volunteer recruitment or strategy making. The aim of the group discussions was not only the unilateral collection of information, but also to provide an opportunity for the civic organizations to share information amongst themselves.

The report about the online survey and the focus group research is available in the following link.