Civic education mandatory to make electoral process a success

The value of every vote is equal. May that be a highly educated person, or a complete illiterate. Therefore, the importance of voter education cannot be emphasized enough.

Added to this in Pakistan are factors that work as add-ons. Poverty is one driving factor. Votes are ‘sold’ for a plate of biryani or a bag of atta. Second is the reliability of the poor upon the influential of their area, a norm particularly prevalent in villages, that will ensure their voting as directed. The third is, in light of lines of any prevalent ideology blurring, party-crossing and so on, there is no left or right. The focus is shifted to cult-worship.

All this makes it extremely important to educate the voter to make intelligent choices. Civic education of voters defines the political systems, the political programs of parties. Awareness of social, economic, and political issues facing the nation. Rights of the people, equal rights of men and women, the value of democracy and the democratic process, value of peace and importance of reconciliation.

A nation of 30 crore and growing, with 51% being women, 0.24% belonging to no specific gender, rest being men, with 32% women not going to primary school and 59% removed from school at grade 6: how can this profile of population make intelligent political choices? They cannot.

Civic education of voters is critical when put in a given context and voters get educated on the election’s purpose, the issues surrounding them and stances of various political parties. In countries with weak educational systems in terms of voters’ civic education coupled with a lower literacy rate, this education must be built around the electoral process. This education must not be a party, or an individual specific based or it will become self-defeating.

Non-governmental and women associations can pay a positive role particularly in developing gender-sensitive messages that help to project a very positive role of women who are intelligent and capable of playing key roles in governing, politics and strong politician.

Democracy is not just a term interchangeable with the term ‘elections. Its is a process.  It requires certain pre-requisites to be in place before elections. Benjamin Barbar, a political scientist from the University of Maryland argues that “democracy is not a natural form of association. It is an extraordinary and rare contrivance of cultivated imagination. Therefore, education lies at the heart of democracy and is vital to its survival in human society (Coronel, 2003).

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The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

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