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Editorial: Ensuring healthy election

Editorial: Ensuring healthy election
As November 20 elections draw near, political parties and their candidates are busy canvassing. They have unveiled their election manifesto with a slew of populist programs designed to attract voters. As election fever grips the country, some candidates have been found engaged in a disinformation campaign to discredit their rivals. Even the top leaders are in it. Social media is awash with false information against candidates. For a free and fair election, it is imperative that political parties encourage their candidates to make their campaign fair and transparent. They must try to win the hearts and minds of voters through noble visions and ideas.

Spreading false information in order to manipulate voters is not good for a democracy. It will not allow voters to make an informed-choice.

In Nepal’s context, where digital media literacy is minimal, many voters are prone to believe whatever information they are beamed onto social media. This could affect the outcomes of the elections. While the Election Commission (EC) has taken some measures to curb the spread of misinformation in the run-up to the November 20 polls, its moves have also generated the debate on freedom of speech and expression. The commission has been criticized for trying to muzzle free speech. Yes, people should be allowed to express their opinions, but in that process, they should not spread misleading information in violation of the poll code of conduct. Major political parties and civil society organizations also have a role to play to ensure a healthy election process. Parties should instruct their candidates and cadres not to strictly adhere to the regulations set by the EC while campaigning. Civil society organizations, meanwhile, can run their own campaigns to educate voters about the dangers of disinformation on social media, and urge them to trust only those information that have come from legitimate sources. In an ideal democracy, people should be allowed to exercise their franchise with their conscience, in a free and fair environment.