Making your vote count
10 September 2018
Promoting democracy and supporting free and fair elections are key priorities for CLGF. This is why a visit earlier this month by a delegation from the Electoral Commission for the State of Maharashtra, led by the State Election Commissioner Jageshwar S. Saharia, was so timely.
There is a separate Electoral Commission for each state in India, devoted entirely to the local government elections. For Maharashtra located in the west of the country, India's second most populous state and third largest by area, this makes perfect sense as the numbers involved include more than 250,000 seats in nearly 28,000 local self-governments; contested by around 2.5 million candidates; and by a voter population of 80 million.
Operating independently of government, the Electoral Commission is keen to share the best practices it has discovered through the new and innovative strategies deployed to improve local government elections. These include:
- introducing Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for elections to all the local self governments both rural and urban
- filing nomination papers and affidavits by all the candidates with the help of software
- reserving 50% of seats for women in all local self governments
- public display of assets / liabilities and criminal antecedents of candidates, as declared by them
- deregistration of 220 political parties for not abiding by the discipline of the Commission
- compulsory declaration of sources of income by candidates
- involving research to understand the dynamics of elections of the local self governments
- filing election expenses digitally by candidates
To support this work they have commissioned several academic institutions; this includes an excellent partnership with the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune.
The State Election Commission will be hosting an International Conference on inclusive local election management and good practices on 25-26 October 2018, which will look at key challenges including the misuse of social media, flows of ‘dirty money’, gender equality and inclusiveness.
Fountainhead of democracy
The Commissioner said: “Because local elections are the fountainhead of democracy, the Commission has been trying to find ways and means of making them more free, fair and transparent - especially since they are more complex, intricate and fiercely contested. The effort has been to follow the principle of complete disclosure, transparency, enlightened voters and providing a level playing field to all the political parties and candidates.”
The Commission and CLGF discussed holding a session at CLGC 2019 – the Commonwealth Local Government Conference - CLGF’s flagship event in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 11-14 June 2019. Deputy Secretary-General Lucy Slack said: “Local government is at the heart of building healthy and prosperous communities; therefore improving elections and making it fairer and easier for voters and candidates to play their part in the democratic process is a key priority. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Maharashtra Electoral Commission, promoting Commonwealth exchange on this key issue, and to be discussing cooperation at the forthcoming conference.”
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