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Pupils from 26 schools from Moldova organized their own elections

by Irina Gotisan-Sotnic

We are at the „Boris Danga” high school from Criuleni town. Pupils are buzzing like honeybees around the hive. They have prepared, in advance, the electoral lists and the ballot papers, the voting booths and the ballot boxes, and now each student awaits his turn to make his/her choice. Their emotions can be read on the faces, and their movements unveil their exaltation. Even the teachers, who are observing the process, are somewhat impressed that everything is running smoothly.

After nearly a month of coordinating the process, pupils attended, with excitement, the elections by direct ballot. It’s not just a simple game, everything was organized by the book, with strict rules and exact procedures.

In mid-September, around 26 high school students from Criuleni attended a training provided by the Center for Continuous Electoral Training (CCET), by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). After that, the young people had 20 days at their disposal to organize a full electoral process: they established the School Electoral Commission, responsible for organizing and conducting, in good order, the elections; the candidates promoted their electoral programs during these period, and their efforts culminated with a real voting in order to elect the members for the Student’s School Board.

Radu Chirilov is a 12th grade student and the leader of a School Party launched in the high school’s electoral race. Radu says that he has already been a member of the Students Council in the past years and has worked on several projects for the young people. Despite of this, in the future, he wants rather to become a teacher than a politician.

“We have organized an electoral race, media campaign and we even felt some rivalry. I have already experience as a counselor at both high school and district level. I’ve been working on some projects in high school, but also in town. I am good at identifying the financial and work resources. We have a good plan for an entire year, like the one we accomplished last year regarding the bicycle parking. This year, we plan to change the stairs in the high school. I know how to manage money, how to negotiate and I have public speaking skills, so as my Party colleagues.”

The campaigning time was conducted during the homeroom classes or at the General Student Assemblies, where the electoral candidates promoted their platforms. School Parties were made up of at least 10 pupils from different classes. Besides parties, in the electoral race, a number of independent candidates took the plunge. One of them is Ion Rapcea, from the 12th grade, who is working hard for a seat in the Student Council.

“Together with the people who are supporting me, we decided that this year we should pay more attention on the students’ education. We want to move the information panel to the entrance, soon the bicycle parking project will be completed. We will collect money from the fair that will take place this month,” says Ion.

The elections took place without significant misconduct, and the secret of the vote was respected, Laura Rinja assures. She is a 12th grade pupil and served as secretary of the School Electoral Commission.

“I was assigned to develop the minutes after the votes’ counting. I also had the task to observe the elections, taking care that no one will commit some frauds. I assisted the students to vote accurately, to go to the right booth, to put the ballot in the right box. For me, it was a new experience. I have seen how the election takes place when you are a member of this Electoral Commission, how difficult it is, because it seems easy from one side. The training course I attended helped me because I found out what it means to be a responsible citizen and what rules we have to respect when we vote.”

“It is for the first time in our school when we organized such elections and this exercise is really educational. Most of the 12th grade students have already came of age and, therefore, will be prepared to participate as first time voters at the next parliamentary election,” says Liviu Fondos, the chairperson of the School Electoral Commission.

If the graduating students dealt greatly in their role as voters, the little ones needed more guidance.

“It was a bit harder with the smaller pupils, it was necessary to tell them what to do, the high school’s seniors did very well. In the past years, we have seen that youth is not going to vote, but everybody has to decide the future of his/her country,” concludes Liviu.

This exercise was organized with the guidance of the CCET as part of the Electoral Month in Schools Campaign. 26 high schools from 11 districts, in the northern, central and southern regions of the Republic of Moldova were selected and for their students were provided training classes. The training lasted for about four hours and consisted of presentations, interactive games on electoral topics and took place the simulation of the election day. In total, 564 pupils were trained throughout the country.

As part of the training course, pupils received two guides — an electoral handbook and a video guide, which explained, in detail, what the pupils have to do.

Marcela Rosca is a specialist at the CCET and provides more details about this campaign:

“We have developed a guide, as an analogy of the Electoral Code, which we use in the elections and called it the School Electoral Code. We encouraged pupils to organize elections for the Student Councils based on this guide. They received models of ballot papers and electoral lists for their elections. In the future, we plan, together with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, that the elections for the Student Councils, in all schools from Moldova, to be based on this School Electoral Code. We believe that young people need to be implied in the electoral processes, much sooner, and not only when they are 18 years old, when get the right to vote.”

This electoral exercise was implemented in order to give the opportunity to pupils to elect, democratically, their students’ board. The CCET came up with the idea to apply the mixed system principles for the students’ elections. In this way, the prospective young voters would get used to voting with two bulletins, for the general constituency — entire school and uninominal constituencies — for each class. The event was also attended by the CEC chairperson, Alina Russu.

“It was interesting to observe how students could apply the mixed electoral system’s rules to their elections. They had a national constituency, or, as it is called here, the school constituency and the eight uninominal or, more precisely, partial constituencies, where each class had its representative. We would like, through this electoral exercise, to make students aware about their involvement in the electoral processes and to start their experience as voters, here, in their school. By speaking with them, I understood that they felt the responsibility and the power of their vote when, freely and unforced by anyone, they realized their right to choose,” mentioned Alina Russu, the CEC chairperson.

Ana Novic, the “Boris Danga” high school principal, said that students were very open and willing to participate in these elections, and she is confident that next year students will repeat this exercise:

“We would like to live in a democratic society and by organizing such school elections we are encouraging students to involve in a educational democratic process. Students need to know how a democratic society works and this not concerns only the Republic of Moldova. They have the theoretical knowledge, and this exercise will offer them the practical skills and convince them that freely and democratic elections are possible to be organized. We try to cultivate them the conviction that the future of this country is in their hands.”

The “Electoral Month” is a continuation of the “Electoral Week”, which took place last May, in the last week of the school year and, in all schools from Moldova classes on electoral topics were held.

In senior classes in high schools, these thematic lessons took place at Civic Education classes. In several high schools these lessons were attended by the CEC chairperson and deputy chairperson, Alina Russu and Rodica Ciubotaru. Also, in the framework of the campaign, some high schools hosted as special guests the representatives of mass-media and civil society — Igor Botan, the executive director of the ADEPT Association and Alexandru Lebedev, journalist, the founder of diez.md.

Pupils from the gymnasium classes had the task, at their drawing courses, to express their vision on what the vote means. Several children sent their drawings to the CEC and these works can be admired and appreciated by the general public in the square of Stefan cel Mare si Sfint monument and at the Chisinau International Airport, where they are exhibited.

The “Electoral Information Month” is a part of the electoral information and civic education campaign “Democracy Matters”, initiated by the Central Electoral Commission. The campaign is conducted in the framework of the UNDP Moldova’s project “Enhancing democracy in Moldova through inclusive and transparent elections”, with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the British Embassy in Chisinau through the Good Governance Fund and the Embassy of Netherlands through the Matra Program.



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