By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, June 26: With the 2020/21 Tibetan general elections around the corner, a Tibetan association, ‘Project Democracy’ has come up with an online tool to foster a more transparent and smart voting culture through an informed electorate in the Tibetan community.
The online tool Smartvote Tibet allows voters to evaluate prospective Presidential (Sikyong) and Parliamentary (Chithue) candidates in a “fact-based and informed way” by gauging their stand on various issues through questions that are gathered from the public. The platform is an adapted version of smartvote, which was first developed in 2003 by Politools in Switzerland with operational success in numerous countries including Australia and countries in the EU.
“We are happy to contribute with a user-friendly solution that will assist voters to make an informed decision on election day. “smartvote” is a brilliant tool and we hope Tibetans will make use of this technology,” said researcher and editor of the prominent Tibetan website High Peaks Pure Earth, Dechen Pemba, who also serves as the spokesperson for the group.
She told Phayul that the platform aims to mitigate the elements that divert attention of voters from the real agendas. “All democracies are challenged by bad choices but at the same time, democracy rely on informed voters. The more that we can keep the focus on the real issues, the less chance that fake news gets. What’s important are issues and action, this initiative puts the emphasis on reason and not on emotions,” Pemba said.
The group is fine tuning their approach to bring about an inclusive and participatory manner from Tibetans in exile as well as those inside Tibet. The online platform, however limits participation from those who have no access to internet and those who are illiterate. “As an exile community, we will need to become more used to doing things online when we have the opportunity to do so,” Pemba told Phayul. “We hope that younger people will help older people and cooperation from many groups will be needed to make this a success. We have workshops planned and some ideas on how to make submitting questions easier, such as accepting audio files instead of written submissions.”
The Smartvote Tibet initiative will be supported by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a prominent Dharamshala based rights group in their endeavours to involve the public and understand core issues of the community.
Project Democracy is an association of Tibetans who have a background in political science, history, psychology, computer technology and human rights law. Some of the more known members include Tibetan MP for Europe Wangpo Tethong, Dhondup Shelkar and Yeshi Deuss.