VILNIUS - Lithuanian citizens in Ireland have begun a campaign encouraging fellow nationals to vote in the upcoming presidential election in response to the statistic that only 2 percent of Lithuanians living in Ireland exercise their right to vote in their homeland's elections.
The movement called "As esu" (I Am), which began in 2008 to inform Lithuanians about the national parliamentary elections, will notify people about how they can vote in the May 17 polls.
"This year we invite all the Lithuanians living in Ireland to the extraordinary journey! No charge is involved and no need to wait for a visa," the "I Am" initiative says.
The journey symbolizes the journey to a brighter future 's which depends on each person individually, the group says. "Every Lithuanian has to feel responsible for their future and has to vote."
Lithuanians living abroad are often distanced from the political scene in the country.
"Young Lithuanians living in Ireland can be reached by Internet. There, they communicate with their friends who live in Lithuania, they do psychological tests, publish photos, exchange information, or send everyday greetings to their friends," said Egle Juciute, the "I Am" member responsible for the Internet project "We try to speak their language."
The main theme for the "I Am" Presidential campaign this year is linked to travels and traveling. The promotional and informational "I Am" posters try to attract attention with an "exclusive offer to buy a ticket for just 0.00 euros."
When you read further, it is not difficult to understand that the so-called ticket is actually the voting ballot, which Lithuanians in Ireland can receive for no charge.
Several weeks ago the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched their own similar campaign called "Kur Jusu rankos?" ("Where are your hands?"). This initiative was also started last year in the U.K. prior to the Lithuanian parliamentary elections.
Lithuania's current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vygaudas Usackas, who at the time was ambassador to the U.K., was one of the project's initiators. The ministry created a special section on its Web site, where Lithuanians living abroad could find information about the upcoming election and about polling stations in their countries.
The "I Am" movement has been known to use unusual and even shocking ways of informing and encouraging people to vote. Last year "I Am" made posters with a coffin asking whether "Lithuanian voters were still alive," or with the direct question "are you a lazybones?"
The results of the campaign looked promising 's the number of voters in Ireland grew six-fold compared with the last election. But compared to the number of Lithuanians living in Ireland, which could be between 70,000 and 100,00, the number of those who registered to vote in the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) election was miniscule 's only 1,511.
Because of the long way to go, the "I Am" group has decided to continue its promotional campaign throughout the presidential election. This time the group decided on more than traditional forms of promotion such as leaflets, meetings, visiting Lithuanian events etc. 's the campaign will also include new techniques that are based on Internet and social networking.
HOW TO VOTE
There are two voting options in Ireland 's by post or at the Lithuanian embassy in Dublin. In order to vote by post, Lithuanians in Ireland will have to register before May 11, which they can do at as-esu.ie or on the embassy's Web site at ie.mfa.lt. Voting at the embassy will take place between May 4 and 8 and May 11 and 15, as well as on May 17.
On April 27, an information hotline hosted by the Central Electoral Commission started operating 's open from 8:00 to 22:00 each day.
By calling the hotline, voters can find out which polling station they are registered at, and when and where it is possible to vote in case they cannot arrive for voting at the scheduled time.
It is also possible to inform about having not received a voter registration card or having noticed election law violations at this phone number.