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Ninth-graders manage their own elections
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Ninth-graders manage their own elections

Basel Alqasem

Ninth-grade students throughout the West Bank are learning how to register, campaign and vote in an elections education project that enters classrooms today.  The project, managed by the Central Elections Commission (CEC) and funded by the European Union, trained 130 civic education teachers last week in electoral concepts and practice.  These teachers will teach a total of 9,000 students during the six-week course.

The project aims to raise electoral awareness in the schools through participatory simulations of the electoral process.  Students will experience all stages of the electoral process—registration, nomination, campaigning, polling and counting—and will be able to play the roles of voters, candidates and polling staff.  The simulations will be accompanied by lectures and printed materials about electoral law and political systems.

This is the second year in which the CEC has implemented this project.  Last year, 106 public schools in the West Bank participated, while this year the project has diversified into 107 public, private and UNRWA schools.

Hisham Kuhail, Chief Electoral Officer of the CEC, said that the schools project “is an exciting opportunity to reach out to future voters and citizens.  It’s fascinating to watch the students become so passionate during the campaigning and polling stages—they are learning how to participate in civic life and how to advocate for what they believe in.” Christian Berger, the Representative of the European Commission, added that "the Central Elections Commission has proven that it is not only prepared to conduct elections professionally and in a politically neutral manner when called upon, but that it is also at the forefront of Palestinian institutions to raise awareness and knowledge among Palestinian citizens about the electoral process. The simulation of elections in schools is a wonderful example of this, as it playfully brings the exercise of democratic processes into classrooms."

The European Union currently supports the Central Elections Commission with a EUR 750.000 grant to upgrade the CEC's IT systems, establish an electronic document management system and to reach out to young voters. Previously, the European Union has been the single largest donor to Palestinian elections and stands ready to support the CEC’s future activities and projects.

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