September 11, 2008, ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) launched two new projects designed to facilitate connections between elected representatives and their constituents in support of more democratic governance. With the election of new National and Provincial Assemblies in February and the election of a new President last week, now is the time for active citizenship to help ensure that elected representatives lead Pakistan towards better, more transparent, and more responsive governance, as they have promised.
FAFEN’s two new projects are based on the principles that citizenship requires much more than voting in elections, and democratic accountability requires much more than making election campaign promises. Democracy should be a two-way continuous process between citizens and the representatives they elect.
FAFEN’s Constituency Relations Project (CRP) is being implemented by 22 civil society partners in 147 National Assembly constituencies around the country. A Constituency Relations Group (CRG), comprising 25 citizens representing many local perspectives, are being established in each constituency. Their goals are to help local citizens stay involved in civic affairs and to help MNAs and MPAs stay informed about the evolving concerns and priorities of their constituencies.
CRGs are leading focus group discussions among citizens, facilitating postcard and letter-writing advocacy campaigns, and hosting public forums with MNAs and MPAs as invited guests. The pilot CRP will end in November with a “Legislative Accountability Action Week” in each constituency.
FAFEN’s complementary Parliament Watch Project (PWP) is being implemented by five of the network’s member organizations in the National Assembly and each Provincial Assembly. The pilot project involves direct observation of the proceedings of the Assemblies in order to assess their transparency, adherence to and non-partisan implementation of parliamentary business procedures, and other factors. Information gathered about the functioning of the Assemblies as well as MNAs’ performance will be shared with the public, including in the constituencies.
In order to vote wisely during elections, citizens need information about how their elected representatives are performing during their current terms in office. FAFEN hopes that its Constituency Relations and Parliament Watch Projects will contribute to both more meaningful voting during elections and more responsive governance between elections.
FAFEN is a network of 30 leading Pakistani civil society organizations established in 2006 to observe elections and other democratic processes, educate citizens and voters, and advocate for electoral and democratic reforms. For more information, see www.fafen.org.
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