‘Poll Reforms Must for Vibrant Democracy’ - The New Indian Express

‘Poll Reforms Must for Vibrant Democracy’

Published: 22nd December 2013 09:27 AM

Last Updated: 22nd December 2013 09:31 AM

The foundation of a healthy and vibrant democracy rests on electoral reforms and the country needs radical changes in this area, Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath said here on Saturday.

 He said the Election Commission is keen for speedy and transparent changes and in this regard and proposals such as making paid news an electoral offence and prohibiting government advertisements on achievements and claims for six months prior to the election notification have been submitted to the Law Ministry.

 Delivering the keynote address in a seminar on ‘Elections and Parliamentary Democracy with focus on Election laws and Reforms’, the CEC pointed out that there is no comprehensive legislation in the country on funding political parties or its external audit and publication.  Sampath said that paid news is a corrupting influence on the media.’’It is one thing which could cause maximum damage to the electoral process,’’he said.

 The Election Commission is also looking forward for introduction of  ‘totalisers’ through which votes pooled from a minimum 14 wards will be counted at one go, instead of ward by ward counting which reveals local trends. “Once the security cover for  elections is withdrawn after the polls, a region which had favoured a particular party or candidate may be subjected to political vendetta by opponents,’’the CEC said.

Turning down the contention of some quarters that the Election Commission need to set only the ground for elections, Sampath said that the EC is also concerned about participation of people in the electoral process in a big way. “In the recent elections held to the five states, voter turnout was the highest ever. Electoral officers at the local level are devising their own ways to ensure maximum participation,’’ Sampath said. He also called for revising the quantum of  punishment for giving and taking bribes in elections.

 In his presidential address at the inaugural session, Speaker G Karthikeyan said that the process of electoral reforms in India has begun. ‘’The parliament and the political class in general have agreed to disagree on reforms when it comes to causing them even the least inconvenience. It is the responsibility of the parliament itself to reform and refine itself to strengthen our democracy, instead of giving room for the judiciary and executive to assert. With the initial enthusiasm over, it remains to be seen how the recent reforms are going to be fruitful,’’he said.

 Delivering the special address, state Chief Electoral Officer Nalini Netto said Kerala had pioneered the shaping of the electoral process in the country by originating the model code of conduct, issuing photo electoral cards to all in 2000, bringing out photo electoral rolls in 2005, establishing a call centre in 2010, going in for online registration of voters and above all in the conduct of  free and fair poll.

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