Educate both voters and citizens

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.

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    The efforts considered and planned by ECB to educate the voters are to be applauded. The true success of a democracy does rest upon the education of an ordinary voter about democracy and governance. Many from these educated voters today are bound to become leaders of the democracy tomorrow.

    And such educated electorates will be leading different democratic houses at different stages whether it’s the LG or the National Assembly or the National Council. As the eligible and educated voters of a democracy, one is expected to know that the style of governance is probably not going to be same in each and every democratic house.

    Good thing is that Bhutan has been trying to do a few things differently from its neighbourhood. An election can become a bit confusing on many occasions when a set of not fully educated voters listen to some probable future democratic representatives and their various election pledges.

    One has every right to disagree with me on this point; but I don’t expect to hear a democratic representative to pledge the same things in the same way irrespective of whether he or she is going to represent LG or NA or NC. The election debates between the candidates shouldn’t leave the voters confused in considering a decision. On so many occasions, I do feel this that every future representative in a democracy is all about serving some kind of a Public Welfare Department or related Programmes or Projects. And it becomes a bit confusing for me.

    If it’s about a Thromde election; I can expect a candidate discussing issues like water supply, drainage, sanitation, reliable power supply, public transport, waste management and so on. But if same discussions become part of debates leading to a NA and NC election, it can leave a not so educated voter like me a bit confused. So I am hopeful that the initiatives considered by ECB will leave the general voters educated about the structures, operations and functioning of different democratic houses. The voters also need to understand how a political leadership differs from an executive leadership in executing governance.

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