ECB: Election officials and representatives from civil society organisations (CSOs) have gathered in Paro to develop new civic and voter education strategy for the election commission.

The two-day multi-stakeholder workshop, which began yesterday, is being held as build-up to the local government elections that will be held next year.

Election Commissioner Deki Pema said that the workshop is important as local government elections are around the corner. CSOs are important partners in educating voters in the country, she added.

Yvonne, one of the workshop facilitators, explained terms such as “voter information”, “voter education” and “civic education”, saying the three carried slightly different meanings.

Voter information means information enabling citizens to vote with information such as the date, time and place of voting and the type of election.  Voter education pertains to relatively more complex types of information about voting and the electoral process, and is concerned with concepts such as the link between the basic human rights and voting rights.

Yvonne said that civil education deals with broader concepts underpinning a democratic society such as the respective roles and responsibilities, citizens, government, and media among other stakeholders.

Participants took stock of voter education programmes ECB has implemented so far and provided their views on which programmes worked and which didn’t. Feedback is expected to help the election commission chalk out a better voter education strategy for the upcoming elections.

Dzongkhag electoral officers highlighted the experiences of educating the population. Electoral officers said that reaching out to every member of a household is a challenge since it is usually the same member from a family who attend voter education programmes multiple times. When it comes to voting, however, every member of a family turns out to cast their vote.

Participants also highlighted that common forum organised by the election commission is one of the most successful programmes to educate voters.

Dzongkhag election officers also highlighted the lack of candidates for local government elections. Representatives from CSOs said that they are collaborating with the election commission to encourage more women candidates to in both local government and parliamentary elections.

The workshop is being held with financial support from International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance), an intergovernmental organisation that supports democracy worldwide.

Staff  Reporter, Paro