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The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) will soon start open house voter education for people living in Thimphu. The programme will be held over five consecutive Tuesdays beginning May 24.

Voter education is vital part of electoral process. Although many other components of education will be required for an election to be successful, voter education is critical because it ensure that voters are ready and willing to take part in electoral politics.

In a democratic society, however, voter education alone will not be enough because it targets only eligible voters and address general electoral process. It just helps create a climate of knowledgeable participation by all potential voters.

It is significantly important, therefore, that voter education is supported or supplemented by civic education, which will ensure that citizens are actively involved in their own governance. Civic education emphasises the relationship between active citizenship and democratic society, which means people don’t just passively accept the dictums of others or acquiesce to the demands of others. It is important therefore that ECB’s voter education is supplemented equally by civic education. Otherwise, we would just be doing things in part and not engaging citizens in fostering self government.

It may be expensive to conduct such programmes routinely. But then, however expensive the elections and the processes that they involve, they are by far cheaper than community conflicts that ensue due to lack of education and necessary voter information.

As we prepare for the approaching local government (LG) elections, it is important that we succeed, even in terms of voter turnout. In the first phase of the second LG elections that was held in January, voter turnout dropped to 19.75 percent compared with the 2011 figure. If voter turnout should be impressive this time round, voter and civic education is critically important.

Preparing voters and citizens is significantly important for electoral process to succeed in a democratic society. We must give people the confidence to vote.

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