The political parties are conscious that the debates will draw much attention, and
their performance could make or mar their image in the communes. Those who will participate,
on the other hand, are grappling with new terms and situations: two or more people
arguing on the merits and demerits of a particular issue, following which the voters
will get a chance to compare their presentations and decide their fate at the ballot
The NDI has decided the debates will have five components. Candidates get two minutes
to introduce themselves and present their election platform. Two more minutes are
set aside for the candidate to respond to questions from the moderator.
After this, each candidate gets one minute to ask a question to a rival candidate,
who in turn, has two minutes to respond. The question can, however, concern only
a policy issue concerning the commune. Personal attacks or questions about personal
disputes are strictly prohibited, and anyone violating the debating rules will be
The moderator also selects members of the audience to ask questions directly to candidates.
The questioners would earlier have participated in group discussions with candidates
and would be aware of the priority issues in their communes. Each candidate has two
minutes to respond to these questions.
Typical questions could include the candidate's ideas for solving commune problems
and how they propose to do so in the face of existing challenges like lack of funds,
corruption, and the law and order situation. Each candidate then gets three minutes
for final remarks.
"While the political parties could encourage candidates to discuss their national
platforms, the candidates should remember that these elections are for local and
not national office," states NDI's manual for candidates. "Commune voters
are likely to support a party which best demonstrates an intention to address local
issues which directly affect their lives."
The manual exhorts candidates to convince voters their party cares about the issues
that affect the lives of the citizens, rather than trying to convince them that citizens
should care about issues that are a priority to the political party.
"Candidates may voice their disagreement with another party's platform that
may contrast his or her proposals, but must do so in a constructive manner free from
personal insults," the manual continues."