Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Free And Fair Elections Cornerstone Of Democratic Polity: CEC

October 31, 2022
Photo: Flickr

Free, fair, inclusive, accessible and inducement free elections being a cornerstone of democratic polity, is a precondition to the peace and developmental dividends, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said today.

In his keynote address at a two-day international conference on the theme ‘Role, Framework & Capacity of Election Management Bodies’, Kumar said, these threshold concepts embody the understanding that sovereignty belongs to and flows from people of a country. He added that inclusivity also means adjusting inequalities especially for women, Persons with Disabilities, senior citizens, young voters, and marginalized populations.

The conference has been organised by Election Commission of India (ECI) under Cohort on Election Integrity led by ECI, which was established as a follow on to the ‘Summit for Democracy’ held in December, 2021. Kumar while highlighting the idea of democracy in India said that democracy has always been a part of Indian ethos, a way of life. Diverse opinions, Dialogue, Discussions, accommodation, non-aggression have been intrinsic part of our culture. He added that people’s faith in the results of elections is the most fundamental precept of a healthy democracy.

While stressing on the significance of the theme of the conference, he said that ‘Role, Framework and Capacity of Election Management Bodies’ are the core building block for ‘elections integrity’ as it covers both the foundational and the functional aspects of any electoral democracy. CEC offered ECI’s expertise in Election Management to world democracies to take forward the Summit’s commitments to real outcomes.

Speaking on the pressing challenges before the Election Management Bodies in today’s context, Kumar stressed on the intersection of EMBs functioning with the social media platforms. He added that social media platforms do self-proclaim that they have content display policies, but they also have the “algorithm power” in play. “More early or deeper red flagging of fake news based on known modus operandi and genres, is not an unfair expectation from the EMBs”, he underscored.

Kumar added that such a proactive approach to counter fake news will facilitate credible electoral outcomes that will help preserve the ‘freedoms’, which the social media platforms require to thrive. Kumar said that this cohort is the right platform to learn from each other as we did during Covid.

Disenfranchisement, even temporarily, during turbulent times like COVID Pandemic is not an option for democracies, he said and emphasised that the cohort would lay the foundation for many more dialogues and institutionalised mechanisms to cooperate on contextual challenges and opportunities.

Addressing the conference, Elizabeth Jones, Charge d’Affaires, United States said relationship with India is most consequential. She added that the partnership is going stronger to address global challenges and to cooperate to bring peace, security and prosperity across the world. She emphasised both the US and India have significantly contributed in building up democratic institutions.

She said ECI has made critical achievements in fostering democratic principles while delving on challenges.  “India’s Election Commission is a testament of a well run election management body overseeing electoral processes. The United States is gratified by your leadership and sharing your expertise with other democracies.

Administration of Indian elections has set standards for democracies worldwide”, she added.In her address, she also highlighted various emerging challenges in the conduct of elections including manipulation of the information environment, barriers in participation of women and marginalized communities, narrowing civic spaces and systemic corruption undermining electoral integrity.”