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Encouraging citizens’ awareness and understanding of democratic and transparent participation in the local elections

2010-05-22

The Arab Thought Forum lunch new initiative to support the local election to be held on the West bank on July 2010.

The new initiatives followed the Central Elections Commission (CEC) positive response to the Cabinet request by confirmed its readiness to administer elections and start the necessary preparations. Given the ongoing division in the Palestinian arena, the CEC called on all political parties, factions and other electoral stakeholders to cooperate with the Commission to ensure free and fair elections.  However, Hamas signaled it would not field candidates because of restrictions on the movement in the West Bank and that security forces have arrested hundreds of Hamas activists and sent home Hamas mayors.

Lack of a national consensus may have negative consequences on the availability of appropriate conditions to ensure transparency and impartiality of such elections. However, if democracy is the sought goal, and the elections will actually take place, it is imperative first to create an appropriate atmosphere to organize means of transparent and impartial elections in order to encourage maximum participation and provide the required credibility and legitimacy to this election.

This will not only bring capable winners and reflect the electorate‘s will, but it would pave the way for resuming the other elections in both the West Bank and Gaza. Accordingly, the completion of this democratic process is one of the building blocks that could help shore up the national authority’s program and the government’s plan to complete the building of the institutions of a state.  

Three main interventions of the ATF initiative will be undertaken including:

A. Setting up a public awareness working group in the southern areas of the West Bank consisting of youth. The group, which will be called “Youth Voting Network”, will be provided with adequate training to its members, enabling them to carry out the planned interventions.
B. Organizing public awareness forums including: nine town hall meetings, three public debates and one post election symposium.
C. Issuing a final report on the election process containing remarks and lessons learned to be used as document materials for future reference aiming at increasing the Palestinian literature and culture on democratic elections.

a) Desired objectives and outcomes
Palestinian citizens are engaged in active participation in the proposed municipal elections based on good preparation with the involvement of officials and community leaders and it is the fervent wish that it would push for further institutional reform towards a democratic and more active participation in the next Palestinian elections. Direct outcomes and impact would be:
• Greater public understanding of the importance of voting, its procedures, and its democratic practices; which will contribute to higher voter turnout on election day;
• Enhanced youth inclusion in political processes and reinforce their position in society as active local constituents in the overall political life
• Broaden culture of democracy through promoting the fundamental principles of democracy where people can exercise their authority directly through voting.
• Increased public understanding in local government and reassertion of their role as important public bodies semi-independent from the national government.
• Better public understanding on how to participate in their local governments (e.g., being informed, taking part in discussing issues, voting, volunteering their time, and understanding why it is important that people participate in their local government) which in turn will gradually improve the quality of life in their community, gain personal satisfaction, prevent officials from abusing power, and other important outcomes.

b) Targeted beneficiaries and geographic locations
Holding such election require providing appropriate conditions and freeing public liberties including respecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and ensuring free political activities for all political parties and factions. These conditions are not fully available under the ongoing political division, which has caused unprecedented deterioration in the human rights situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Beneficiaries:
- 80 young people aged 18 to 29 years would be the main vehicles to carry out this intervention.
- 5000 from the general public, intellectuals, national and local government officials and leaders of civil society organizations through the activities implemented
- Special consideration will be given to assure maximum participation of women as audience, group members or speakers.

Geographic Locations: The action will focus on the southern part of the West Bank, with special focus on metropolitan areas and large cities.
I) Description and Technical Approach of Implementation:

The project is a multi-intervention that aims to contribute to the general public awareness for the 2010 Palestinian local elections and to assist providing public legitimacy to this disputed act. Towards that end, ATF will build a group of Youth Voting Network to carry out various activities with three specific objectives:

1. Promote public understanding of the local elections and the electoral system for the 2010 municipal elections, ensuring public are aware of their voting centers, nomination rights, electoral campaigns, election day procedures and voting, and certain understanding of the post-election processes.
2. Contribute to the democratic and fair elections through public understanding of their rights including the right to nomination, the quota system for the marginalized including women, youth, ethics and integrity of candidates, violations and negative practices, and the importance of fair elections.
3. Enhance public influence through engaging the public in direct dialogue with political parties, local leaders, and civil society representatives.


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