Election Commission of India offers expertise in election management to the world democracies

New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner of India Shri Rajiv Kumar along with Election Commissioner Shri Anup Chandra Pandey today inaugurated a two day international conference on the theme ‘Role, Framework & Capacity of Election Management Bodies’. The conference is organized by Election Commission of India at New Delhi under Cohort on Election Integrity led by ECI, which was established as a follow on to the ‘Summit for Democracy’ held in December, 2021.

In his keynote address at the inaugural ceremony, CEC Shri Rajiv Kumar said that free, fair, inclusive, accessible and inducement free elections being a cornerstone of democratic polity, is a precondition to the peace and developmental dividends. 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.

CEC Shri Rajiv Kumar’s address at the inaugural ceremony

CEC Shri Rajiv 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 Shri Rajiv Kumar 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, CEC Shri Rajiv 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. Sh 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.

Shri Rajiv 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. He 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, Ms. 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 US & 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.”

DG IIIDEM and Senior DEC Shri Dharmendra Sharma welcomed the delegates to the two day conference. Mr. Mohd. Irfan Abdool Rahman, Electoral Commissioner of Mauritius, Ms. Aggeliki Barouta, Head of Deptt Elections & Pol. Parties, Ministry of Interior, Greece, Mr. Anthony Banbury, President & CEO, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Mr. Kevin Casas- Zamora, Secretary General, International IDEA, representatives from UNDP & EMBs including Armenia, Mauritius, Nepal, Cabo Verde, Australia, Chile, Federal States of Micronesia, Greece, Philippines, Excellencies, Ambassadors/High Commissioners and other members of Diplomatic Corps from Costa Rica, Ghana, Jamaica, Albania, Nepal, Greece, Montenegro, Spain, officials from ECI & Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India are attending the two day Conference.

The latest edition of ECI magazine “Voice International” on the theme ‘Collaboration & Partnerships for Voter Education & Awareness’ showcasing best initiatives of EMBs was unveiled on the occasion.

EMBs to strengthen democratic norms and processes by collective action : EC Shri Anup Chandra Pandey

Election Commissioner Shri Anup Chandra Pandey presided over the concluding ceremony of the two day international conference on ‘Role, Framework & Capacity of EMBs’ as the lead for the Cohort on ‘Election Integrity’ organized by the Election Commission of India.

In his address at the concluding ceremony, EC Shri Anup Chandra Pandey said that though elections are key to democracy, the quality of functional efficiency of conducting elections by EMBs in turn depends on their effectiveness in addressing challenges and maintaining independence. He urged all EMBs to strengthen democratic norms and processes and leverage all relevant platforms for collective action.

EC Shri Pandey while highlighting the emerging challenges like polarization, populism, voter apathy faced by EMBs globally, emphasised the need for mutual cooperation, continuous engagement and knowledge sharing on a regular basis in a structured manner to address these challenges. He said there is need to develop global standards and SOPs on management of electoral roll, polling management, electoral technology, control of disinformation, fake news, cyber security and all related aspects in conduct of free, fair and transparent elections.

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Sh. Anup Chandra Pandey

Shri Pandey said that efforts should be made to bring more and more democracies on board in a manner that involves and engages them in strengthening electoral democracy. Roles of the Partner organizations need to be redefined for more effective assistance to the needy EMBs for capacity building, he stressed.

During the two days, detailed deliberations spread across three sessions were held.

The first session on “current challenges faced by the EMBs” with respect to their role and framework to ensure ‘election integrity’ was chaired by the Electoral Commissioner of Mauritius. The session had presentations from Election Authorities in Mexico, Chile, Nepal & Greece. The Chair concluded the session appreciating the initiatives made for free, fair,transparent and credible election by these EMBs and Election Authorities and that there was much to learn from good practices of each other.

The second session on ‘Future Challenges’ was co-chaired by Secretary General, International IDEA and the Head of the Department of Elections and Political Parties, Directorate of Elections, Ministry of Interior, Hellenic Republic, Greece. The session had presentations from representatives of the Australian Electoral Commission & COMELEC, Philippines. The session noted that Election Authorities need to gear up to face emerging challenges of digital technologies and above all the resilience of EMBs in smooth management of their core functions.

The third session on ‘Capacity of EMBs’ was chaired by President & CEO IFES. The session had presentations from IFES Country Director (Sri Lanka & Bangladesh), Representative from UNDP and Head of the Department of Electoral Rolls and Results, Directorate of Elections, Ministry of Interior, Hellenic Republic, Greece.

President & CEO IFES emphasised on new paradigms required to address strengths and weaknesses and learn from each other to secure electoral integrity. There is a need to identify threats including deliberate attacks on EMBs, misinformation, disinformation, as much has changed with new technologies affecting social cohesion, he said. The speakers said EMBs being guardians of electoral integrity need to rethink their role beyond just efficient conduct of processes and thus, capacities, authority, accountability and independence of EMBs need to be redefined accordingly.