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How the debates will work

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

box.

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

disqualified.

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."

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