Towards a better electoral process in Mongolia
The project sought to strengthen the electoral system and civic participation in Mongolia by raising the level of voter education and public awareness on democratic institutions and processes. Its main objectives were: to prepare a voter education high school curriculum; establish a network of volunteers able to train on voters rights issues; improve the skills of key officials involved with elections; and implement a public awareness campaign for voters for the elections in 2012. Its intended outcomes were to have its voter education curriculum adopted by the Ministry of Education as part of the national school curriculum; trained observers and officials ready for the 2012 elections; and, a more knowledgeable public on voter issues. It is evident that this project contributed towards these results and to the more positive outcome of the 2012 electoral process when compared to the situation in 2008. The project started early when no one else was working on these issues, and it was a sizeable project for the sector. However, the extent of the project’s reach and its actual impact is unknown.
Lessons from Project
Election observer training was done far in advance of the elections; this helped ensure that the CSOs and parties kept a focus on the upcoming electoral process and the need to prepare for their observation effort, especially as 2012 was the first elections where CSO observers were to be allowed. However, this meant that the material was more generic than would have been had otherwise, and that the participating organizations would need to supplement this training later on with the specifics for the 2012 election, such as the new electronic way to count the ballots.
The extent of the project’s outcome is unknown. The grantee did not do a before/after baseline that could have measured its results, nor did it track its trainees afterwards to see if they replicated the training and if so, who they reached. Most of the project work was completed well before the elections, and a lot of work was done subsequently, so attributing results in terms of voter education, domestic observation and actions of the targeted officials is difficult.
The project accomplished its list of tasks, however its design was too ambitious for the resources available and some activities were only marginally accomplished. This included the training for police, judges and media, and the trainer-of-trainer (TOT) aspect of observation training. The loss of focus on TOT limited the project’s potential reach and effectiveness. These areas remain critical ones, especially for the justice sector.
The knowledge and skills gained by the staff during the implementation of the project are still in demand. Other CSOs and some international organizations are continuing to request training and presentations on election-related issues. Subsequent training was done using the same materials, for Mercy Corps, Open Society, Global International and others. The grantee also reported receiving additional requests for training from the police and others, such as candidates– one of which said they were willing to pay for this type of a professional training despite having access to party trainers.
The grantee prepaid for the activities that it wanted to undertake after the official end of the project. This included the entire public awareness campaign (printing and disseminating posters and handouts, and media spots). This ensured that they had time slots available, as the time for the electoral campaign is very short in Mongolia, and other NGOs and CSOs found out the hard way that all of the available advertising time had already been bought out by the two main political parties when they tried to buy time closer to the elections.
The grantee reused and repackaged its training materials for use with different actors, which it then tailored to their individual needs. As an example, the pocket handbook and audio tape for the police and use of the same graphics for all handbook and DVD covers.
The grantee was well organized and took efforts to maximize the project resources and extend its reach. For example by developing synergies with other organizations working on the same issues as the project and using its grass roots network of provincial offices to identify participants and to deliver its training nationwide to CSO and political party observers and monitors.
Some of the project activities changed as the grantee found that the judiciary was not interested in being trained by an NGO. Instead, they translated the International IDEA’s Handbook on Electoral Justice into Mongolian and distributed it to the appellate court judges at working lunches or through the mail. The handbook was also distributed to other actors, including the electoral commission and political parties. This seemed to be an appropriate alternative as the evaluators found the handbook in use by lawyers with election complaint cases pending in the courts, with some judges, party members and the electoral commission stating that they used it as a reference for international best practices and to find specific examples of how other countries handled their electoral dispute resolution.
The efforts to develop a new module for civic education, that contained the information on the structure of government and voter’s rights, roles and responsibilities, directly addressed the lack of a civic education program in the schools that was relevant to Mongolian democracy in the 21st century. The grantee worked directly with the Ministry’s Institute of Educational Research which increased its relevance and significance for the Ministry and for the national school system.