‘India can be role model in conducting smooth polls’ (Election SPecial)

New Delhi, April 13: The sheer scale of the Indian general election has left them marveling. Members of an international delegation that is in India to witness the Lok Sabha elections are highly impressed by the smooth conduct of polls and say India has become a learning centre for other developing countries.

“We visited a model polling station in Delhi and witnessing the magnificent arrangements for voters. It also shows that polls of such magnitude can be conducted in such a smooth manner. This would help the other developing countries too,” Abednego Akok, Chief Election Commissioner of South Sudan, told IANS.

Akok, who had witnessed the arrangements for the Delhi assembly polls in December last year, said “India has become a learning center for developing countries of the world. Despite being the world’s largest democracy and being prone to hassles like population, problems due to a multi-party system and frequent violation of the model code of conduct by political parties, the Election Commission of India is able to conduct polls in a very smooth manner,” Akok said.

Akok is part of the 30-member delegation from 19 countries that visited polling stations in other states as well as the national capital. Besides Akok, the delegation includes senior election officials from Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and a few other developing countries.

“The Indian government can be the perfect partner for a young country like South Sudan in the area of training of staff and use of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) system, which are very essential for smooth conduct of polls,” said the CEC of South Sudan, which became an independent nation in 2012 and its poll panel was set up a year ago.

Muiugeta, a senior election officer from Ethiopia, praised the awareness campaigns launched by the poll panel and the Systematic Voters Systematic Voters’ Education And Electoral Participation(SVEEP) – an initiative to motivate people to come out and vote.

He also appreciated the use of the newly-introduced paper trail in EVMs and wants it to be used in his country too.

Muiugeta said he had seen EVMs with paper trail in Belgium which had been kept for demonstration, while in India it was used in selected polling stations of the national capital.

“During my visit to polling stations in Delhi, i witnessed the immense excitement among the voters whereas in Ethiopia even the awareness campaigns fail to bring voters to polling booths, ” Muiugeta told IANS.

He said the Ethiopian government wants the Election Commission of India to guide and provide training to his country to make them “election oriented” to conduct the polls smoothly.

Muiugeta was also amazed to know that unrecognized political parties are allowed to contest polls in India, which is not allowed in Ethiopia.

There are a total of 72 recognised political parties in Ethiopia. India has a staggering 1,617 unrecognised political parties while there are six national and 47 state recognised parties.

Rigzen Lhundrup, a senior election official from Bhutan, said: “The best thing about the poll process in India is the systematic way it is conducted despite India being the second most populated country in the world”.

He said Bhutan has a similar poll process, but despite measure taken by the Bhutanese government the polling is often not a smooth affair. Additional security is deployed many times to bring the situation under control.

“India can be a role model for the developing nations and we can learn a lot about how to conduct the polls in a smooth and fair manner. India’s role has been magnificent in conducting the polls in Bhutan in a fair and smooth manner,” Lhundrup told IANS.

Bhutan was provided over 3,000 electronic voting machines recently for the polls.

(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at rupesh.d@ians.in)

IANS