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The approach of youth participation in Portugal considers the current trends experienced throughout Europe and at a national level, emphasising young people’s lack of interest in the conventional ways of participation, with low rates for voting and political party membership, as well as a disbelief in political institutions. Paradoxically, young people aren't apathetic, unconventionally participating in various causes and using different means: they do volunteer work and are involved in civic organisations, they participate in protests, they integrate sports and religious groups and they use the media as a means of participation. In this context, youth participation must be seen comprehensively, covering multiple means of participation where young people are important stakeholders that must be taken into account in policy-making processes.
The ‘Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life’ from the Council of Europe, in 2003, is a reference in the context of national youth policies, which takes into account the idea that ‘participation in the democratic life of any community is about more than voting or standing for election, although these are important elements. Participation and active citizenship is about having the right, the means, the space and the opportunity and, where necessary, the support to participate in and influence decisions and engaging in actions and activities so as to contribute to building a better society’.
Thus, the promotion of youth participation considers the direct and indirect ways to do this and, above all, it provides young people with the means, spaces, opportunities and support for the exercise of their rights and to be actors of democracy, thus strengthening it.
The Portuguese State is a semi-presidential constitutional republic. In Portugal, there are four sovereign organs: the President of the Republic, the Assembly of the Republic (Parliament), the Government and the Courts.
The archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores have their own administrative system: the Regional Government of the Azores and the Regional Government of Madeira. The assemblies and regional governments have broader powers to define policies for each region, except on foreign policy, national defence and internal security, which are defined by the Parliament or the Government of the Republic.
The national regulatory framework includes civil parishes and city councils in the concept of local authority. Moreover, municipalities' associations and intermunicipal communities are also included in the local authority context.
In local elections, citizens elect the parish assembly, subsequently resulting in the parish council, the municipal assembly and the city council.
In Portugal, voting is a right and a civic duty, and therefore not mandatory. It is confidential and exercised in person. Voter registration is mandatory and citizens are automatically registered when they turn 18.
Voters who, for professional reasons, are not able to exercise the right to vote at their respective Polling Station on election day may resort to early voting. Citizens displaced in work, students, researchers and scholarship students can use early voting, according to Organic Law no. 3/2010 of 15th December).