May 24, 2024, Friday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Empowering voters


The Nepal Weekly
February 22, 2022

As preparation for the local polls goes ahead the programme for empowering voters should be launched as part of broad voter education. It is essential for addressing the need for right information about the electoral process, the significance of adult franchise particularly secret ballots, voting in a valid way, taking victory with humility and accepting defeat in a normal open way. All know that democracy could be strengthened through periodic elections. Similarly all are familiar with the viewpoint that voters should be well informed in order to enable them to select candidates freely, with no fear and interference from anyone else. Some, giving examples of polls five years ago and two other elections before those, could argue that Nepali voters are used to voting in elections and they have rich experience in voting. That is why, they could opine, there is no need for voter education. But they should understand that enlightening voters about all dimensions of polls including the value of votes is something which should continue all the time. Stakeholders of democracy should always make it a point to educate voters about the interconnectedness between democratic values and adult franchise. Both could be better nurtured if voters are informed, participative and decisive with all seriousness. In absence of voter education voters could be indifferent and they might not own the electoral process. Their indifference will lead to nonparticipation which could be very harmful for continuity of democratic values in the country. The process of understanding political parties’ competitive campaigning for polls in a proper way also demands high voter literacy. Using ballot paper correctly, independently and in a given short time also requires voter-  patience, skill and literacy. The exercise gets further complicated in times of local elections when voters have to choose mayors, deputy mayors, ward chairpersons and four other members including two women one of whom should come from Dalit community. The Election Commission has done well by ensuring information flow through the press centre. Political parties and civil society should also back up the process through their own ways of informing voters about the importance of voting freely, fairly and without fear. The federal government, despite myriad shortcomings in the past five years, has not interfered with the timing of local elections this time. Voters should capitalize on that and bring forward their informed choice which will be instrumental in running the local government for the period – 2022-2027. The local polls should be utilized by them wisely and in a mature way for producing an elected team which could ultimately be more efficient than in the past in governance and public service delivery in the best interest of the people.