New Delhi, Dec 6 The smooth conduct of India’s elections and the efficient use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and other technology are an eye-opener for many foreign delegations that came here to observe Indian democracy in action.
“Despite being the biggest democracy and having a multi-party system, where the chances of problems in the electoral procedure is higher, the Election Commission of India was able to conduct the referendum in a very peaceful and tranquil manner,” Badrieh-Al-Mutaz Abdul Karim, Assistant Secretary General in the Election Commission of Jordan, told IANS, while on a visit here.
“We were impressed by the use of technology in the Indian elections. It would be great to have exchanges of technology… this would help other countries also,” Karim added.
Karim was part of a 24-member delegation from eight African and Middle East countries, who witnessed state elections in five states, including Delhi. The delegates included chief election commissioners and commissioners from South Sudan, Jordan, Gambia and Guinea Bissau and senior representatives from Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria and Senegal.
Alieu Njai, the Election Commissioner of Gambia, praised the newly-introduced Verified Voters Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. He now wants to use it in his country too.
“The machine used in the assembly elections are very much unique, simple and easy to use to operate,” Njai said.
“I will ask our government to replace the paper balloting with VVPAT machines in the next Gambian elections,” he said.
The VVPAT or the paper trail was used for the first time in Aizwal (state capital of Mizoram) and New Delhi assembly constituencies on a trial basis. VVPAT is an electronic voting machine where the voters after casting their ballots are able to see the name of the candidate and his/her political party along with their own name and electoral Id number.
The printer attached with the machine prints a slip, which is visible for seven seconds. The slip then falls down in a box attached to the machine.
Njai said in his country the old balloting system still prevails.
“Unlike here, in our country we still follow the paper balloting system, which is full of hassles and time consuming for the election commission officials,” Njai told IANS.
In Delhi, the delegation apart from visiting polling booths, also took tips on security management and planning the elections.
The delegation members were also taken in by the android-based SMS system that transfers the data from the polling booth to the control room of the election commission.
The delegates in Delhi also visited two model polling stations and also tried their hand at mock polling through the newly introduced paper trail system.
Ahmad Zabbar Hasan-Al-Suddani, the head of training and procedure of elections in Iraq, was also impressed with the new paper trail system.
“VVPAT is a unique thing. Indeed there is so much transparency. One gets to know which candidate you have voted unlike the normal EVM’S where the voters just vote on the party symbol,” he said.
Speaking about the visit, Suddani said he liked the way the poll panel was able to create awareness among voters to exercise their franchise.
“I admired the way the election commission was able to reach out to the voters. It was also impressive to see that many young voters came out to vote. The young voters obviously were inspired by these awareness campaigns and so came out in large numbers to vote,” Suddani added.
He was talking about the newly launched initiative called the Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) under which awareness programmes through mass media are organised by poll officials and NGOs to woo voters.
The visit was facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Election Commission of India (ECI) and UNDP have a memorandum to jointly promote exchange of visits and sharing of experiences and skills in the field of electoral management with developing countries.
“They were particularly impressed with the use of technology in these elections, particularly the use of EVM and the use (on pilot basis) of the VVPAT, which they were able to see and try for themselves,” said an election commission officer.
The official said many delegates expressed interest in transfer of EVM technology to their countries and also sought ECI’s assistance in capacity building of their officials.