Peer engagement and collaborative knowledge-sharing can help stakeholders garner novel insights on familiar topics. As part of the European Union-funded STEP Democracy Programme, a DIPD-sponsored delegation of Myanmar political party members, election commission representatives, and Yangon regional government officials visited Denmark on a study tour to observe the Danish municipal elections (KV17) on 21 November and observe first hand how local democracy functions in Denmark.
Delegates were excited to learn about the intricacies of Danish local democracy including: the role of political parties in a democracy and in elections, how Denmark promotes youth and female political engagement, and how it promotes inclusive local elections. As NLD Chairperson of Kyaukmae Township, Ma Yadanar Soe Zaw said “having experienced being a young female political candidate, I was excited to learn about the campaign strategies used by youth candidates and the role of political parties in the Danish local election”
The 19 delegates traveled throughout Denmark to observe local political campaigns, polling, and post-election coalition building in 7 of Denmark’s 98 electoral municipalities.
In Frederiksberg, delegates met with candidates and youth campaign volunteers, as they witness a very tight race for municipal council. They also learned about the prominent role played by political parties in campaigns and local governance, as well as gained an appreciation for the degree of transparency in the local electoral process. Later, they were also featured on Danish local television – click here to watch the video.
During the post-election debriefing session, the delegates identified some key takeaways that could be applied to the Myanmar context including: the role of political parties in local elections, youth engagement strategies, constructive political debate culture, cross-party coalition building, strong female candidate representation, and techniques in electoral management. STEP-partner DIPD will continue to work on these takeaways through its municipal election programming. DIPD will also continue to work on promoting youth involvement in political parties, and supporting multiparty dialogue on electoral and democracy-related themes.
Reflecting on their trip delegates shared their insights.
For example, U Zaw Win Naing, NLD MP from the Yangon Regional Parliament shared:
“Danish political culture is conducive to youth participation. The system allows youth as young as 18, to be eligible as candidates despite the fact that the average candidate age is 50. In Denmark, people voted based on candidate qualifications and elected the candidate who could best tackle local issues.”.
Khun Saung Shwe, Central Executive Committee Member and Head of Training and Education for the PaO National Organization said:
“I learned how youth political branches participate in local elections and how Denmark’s education system is conducive towards promoting youth participation in democratic processes. I also observed the mutual respect held between party leaders and youth organizers. From this, I will advocate for local party leaders in Myanmar to adopt a similar attitude.”