A majority (52.2%) of 18–25-year-olds out of 300 thousand young people included in the electoral lists voted during the second round of the 2020 presidential elections.
Following the last elections, one may no longer say that “the young people do not care”, “the youth is indifferent” or that “the young people are still the most passive participants in elections”. The youth proved that if motivated, they may cast their vote with responsibility and patience, after having stayed in queues for hours.
From the age of 18 years, the young people may vote and decide who will manage a community, a town or the whole country. But who teaches the new voters how to take such a responsible decision? And when should be appropriate for them to start their “path” toward elections?
Youth teaching youth about representative democracy
The CCET 2020 Open Talks edition, an event organised with UNDP’s support by the Centre for Continuous Electoral Training under the Central Electoral Commission for the fourth year, has brought into the spotlight five graduates of the Electoral Research Programme. Master’s and PhD candidates from Moldovan universities received scholarships for researching democratic processes.
The research programme was launched in 2019, with the support provided by the UNDP “Enhancing democracy in Moldova through inclusive and transparent elections” project. Since the outcomes exceeded the expectations, in 2020 the CCET decided to provide scholarships out of its own budget in order to safeguard continuous involvement of young people with an interest in this area.
Anatolie Talmaci, Valeria Bejenari, Cătălin Moroi, Mariana Novac and Alfred Silistrari voiced their research work at the CCET Open Talks 2020 conducted on 9 December, namely about how the political parties were financed, how the gender balance was achieved in politics, how different players were trained in the electoral process, about the impact produced by the electoral system change on political formations and, of course, about the right to elect and be elected.
All these young people are active in the academic world, having become electoral democracy promoters, while their work does not end here.
Cătălin Moroi, Master candidate at the Department of International Relations, Political and Administrative Sciences, the State University of Moldova: “CCET Open Talks is an opportunity for the young scientists, a forum for discussions and for demonstrating the research and public speech skills. It is not enough to write a paper; you need to draw the attention of people to it, and the CCCET Research Programme teaches you how to succeed. And, since a topic is never sufficiently studied, I believe I should keep going and develop also a doctoral thesis in this area. Democracy can be taught, and CCET Open Talks facilitate this process!”
Mariana Novac, Master candidate at the Department of International Relations, Political and Administrative Sciences, the State University of Moldova: “The research experience in the electoral field has been useful, interesting and promising for me. I would like to thank this way the CCET Team and its partners for the opportunity, collaboration and support. Having studied the topic on political party financing in-depth, I acknowledged that I would be eager to continue this research under the Master’s degree thesis to be completed by the end of this academic year”.
As a web-streamed event, which gathered more than 27 thousand views on privesc.eu, the youth’s message reached the general public, particularly, the young people. Who else could persuade the youth to listen if not the young people themselves?
The Research Scholarship Programme is an example of electoral education and civic involvement at the university level, but what is going on in schools?
Election of school councils — an exercise organised in compliance with all election rules
Doina Bordeianu, CCET Director: “We strongly believe that democracy can be taught at any age; however, from our perspective, it is vital to begin it at an early age. The family, local communities, education institutions, state entities and the civil society — all of them play a role in the education of a modern citizen”.
Yet, citizens are taught democracy since their childhood not only in Moldova, but also across different countries of the world. According to Doina Bordeianu, in Northern Europe, for example, the so-called democratic schools are popular, while in Great Britain and the USA — the online strategic games through which children and young people can learn and exercise democracy and governance.
In Moldova, over the last years, with UNDP ‘s support, CCET piloted and then developed various civic education programmes for schools. The model of organising the election of school students councils is one of the most important programmes.
Practical guide for conducting elections in school students councils is an analogy of the Electoral Code developed by the CCET in 2018, although it is a simplified version tailored for schools. This is a guide for each and every Moldovan school in organising elections of school ctudents Councils, and an advisory body for the secondary or high school’s management, representing the pupils’ voice and interests. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research and with UNDP’s support, the CCET aims that all schools conduct elections following the school clectoral Code. This exercise provides the youth with the opportunity to learn much earlier in their life about the electoral processes, not just when they reach the age of 18 and have the right to vote.
The coronavirus pandemic swept away the plans for 2020, while the CCET team was not able to physically reach the schools to facilitate the elections. Nonetheless, an even better solution has been identified. A video version of the guide was produced and posted on social networks so that each school or interested person could access the useful and comprehensive information about democratic organisation of school ballots. Moreover, the video guide can be accessed any time over the year, while the described rules remain the same.
Doina Bordeianu, CCET Director: “This is a genuine school electoral code, which includes the description of the electoral process, beginning with the establishment of the school electoral commission, registration of electoral competitors, carrying out the electoral campaign and ending with the voting process, the count of votes and aggregation of election results. The democratic elections that end with the establishment of school students councils are valuable ‘lessons’ for the citizens and voters of tomorrow. They stimulate civic participation and activism, develop oratorical and persuasion skills, incentivise team work to strengthen around a common goal. As an immediate result, pupils understand the electoral mechanism and learn to distinguish between electoral actors and the role they play during the electoral period”.
Since 2018, the CCET managed to reach with its Guide to more than 70 schools, and indirectly, via the video material posted online, to other tens of education institutions. The practical guide for conducting elections in school students councils has been appreciated and encouraged by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, which partners for CCET for this action.
Libraries — highlights for voters
In 2018, with UNDP’s support, the CCET piloted another civic education and electoral information programme. This is about the training of librarians to be messengers of objective information directly from the source: the Central Electoral Commission. Since then, libraries have become information centres for the current and future voters during three consecutive suffrages: parliamentary and local general elections held in 2019 and the 2020 presidential elections. Hence, 340 librarians informed directly more than 5400 voters.
Diana Mihaila is part of the first generation of librarians trained by the CCET. She says that she managed to inform over 400 people about elections and electoral processes. “The library has become an outstandingly valuable information hub for citizens, the number of library’s visitors is on the rise as it enhanced its reputation within the community. An important thing I would like to highlight is that people are content that we are apolitical, and nobody talks about political parties and tells them whom they should vote. We discuss the voting procedures and explain them what they do not understand. Therefore, we have become messengers of reliable information. The people want to vote being more aware, not manipulated”, noted the librarian from Vasieni village, Ialoveni district.
“Personally, I also increased my self-awareness. I am more confident in my actions, a fact that was strange to me some two years ago; I have become more responsible in terms of how I convey the message as I know that no one can manipulate me. I also learned a rather important lesson. The people need the truth, many said they were sick and tired to get only leaflets with the candidates during the elections as nobody brought them information of public interest like the CCET did,” concluded Diana Mihaila.
Information materials for all ages and motivational posters were disseminated within the libraries. They draw everybody’s attention as soon as one stepped in the library.
When visiting the library, the young people would be advised to look through the three editions of the brochure “Democracy can be taught” developed by the CCET with the project’s support, which guide the youth and future voters in an accessible and friendly language, behind the scenes of the electoral process.
Mariana Haivaz, librarian of Bascalia public library, Basarabeasca district: “In my opinion, by having raised the community awareness about elections, we achieved good results as the voter turnout increased in my community compared to the previous suffrages. I have managed to persuade the villagers that democracy matters and inspire them to be active citizens and get involved in decision-making. The community’s inhabitants were curious to listen to and look through the guides provided by the CCET. Even the Moldovan Constitution was an outstandingly sought piece of information. Children were interested to read and colour the cartoons ‘Arci at the polling station’. It was a good experience for me to communicate with the community, to guide the villagers to get actively involved in the decision-making process, and, why not, decide the fate of the country”.
To read more about the events organised by the librarians trained in 2020, please go to the public group created on Facebook.com.
Doina Bordeianu, CCET Director: “The community of libraries that decide to sustain the CCET’s endeavour to enhance the people’s electoral culture is expanding from year to year. There is an interactive map available on our web page, that illustrates the library network, the voters’ information hubs. Any interested person may identify the closest library from where to get information about elections. The creative potential and enthusiasm of library workers is huge, and we would like to take full advantage of it by launching a grant competition designed specifically for public libraries”.
More about the democracy’s meaning during ‘Civic education’ and ‘Education for society’ classes
Most children have had at least a chance to accompany their parents to the polling station. There is an uprise of political news during the electoral campaigns, over the Internet as well where a large part of children sped their spare time. Piles of information from a variety of sources are not necessarily true or at least objective. Children are required to draw the conclusions by themselves, unless they decide to pay no attention to it. What should be done in this case? The information shall be filtered, while children and youth should be helped out to comprehend it. How? Primarily, during the civic education and education for society classes.
A year ago, the CCET and UNDP trained more than 40 teachers of civic education and education for society, as well as the representatives of district education divisions, who are directly responsible for these two disciplines.
Doina Bordeianu, CCET Director: “Although the school’s civic education curriculum includes a module entitled ‘Democratic society’, few teachers dedicate it to electoral education. This is mainly caused by the lack of specialised teaching materials. In 2019, CCET tried to cover that gap by developing a set of toolkits and teaching materials to be used during the civic education classes. Those two training sessions conducted for civic education teachers and one for the representatives of district education divisions responsible for the civic education that CCET managed to conduct in November 2019, with UNDP project’s support, proved their relevance and opportunity. The participants showed their interest in the teaching programme and appreciated the materials provided in electronic copies”.
Nicolae Gavriliță, teacher of history and education for society, “Dumitru Matcovschi”, secondary school from Vadul lui Rașcov: “Education for society is a new discipline currently taught to the 5–6 grades, which comprises a module dedicated to participative democracy. Unlike civic education, all its topics are interrelated to ensure continuity so that school students exercise on a permanent basis, not just for one or two hours. Therefore, everything that I learned during the training would be useful and practical during the classes”.
Training sessions have been planned for several districts in 2020, including a more detailed programme and interactive and practical materials for teachers. The pandemic halted the whole process only a few days before the launch. However, this has not hampered the teachers or the representatives of district education divisions to keep in touch with the CCET throughout 2020 and seek more information or more materials, or even online advice.
Doina Bordeianu, CCET Director: “With no doubt, the training of civic education teachers will be resumed as soon as possible and be continued over the next years as they are the target beneficiaries included in the CCET Strategic Plan for 2020–2023”.
UNDP Team, with the generous support from the American People, provided through USAID Moldova, plans to support electoral education programmes in 2021 as well.
Go to undp.md/electoral-support to read and watch videos about the CCET interactive activities conducted with support from UNDP’s project.