SAARC nations to emulate poll practices of India

New Delhi: India`s success in holding elections through tech-savvy systems including the use of EVMs, has caught the fancy of Pakistan and other SAARC countries, which have expressed the desire to emulate it in their respective areas.

As heads of poll management bodies of SAARC countries got together to evolve solutions to common problems at the ongoing 3rd conference of heads of election management bodies of SAARC nations here, India showcased its use of modern technology for strengthening democracy and election management systems. India made a presentation on use of technology in election management which generated encouraging response from Election Commissions of SAARC countries.

"Yes, we would like to follow the best practices followed by India. We are inspired by India`s controls on use of money power and help us increase voter turnouts, as our voter turnout is very low…," Justice (Retd) Muhammad Roshan Essani, member of Election Commission of Pakistan told PTI today.

"For the 83 million voters in Pakistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan has created a computerised data base of voters and we are trying to make use of IT and EVMs in our election system…For tackling money power and political finance, that legislation is under consideration. We are working on that. A committee has been formed," he said.

Pakistan EC spokesman Muhammad Afzal Khan said, "With Pakistan, India and Bangladesh having similar cultures, all should help each other…We must learn from each other… We are trying to use EVMs in our elections." Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan (Dasho) Kunzang Wangdi also said they are trying to emulate many good election practices from India, as theirs was a new democracy – formed only in 2008 after years of monarchy. Wangdi said, "We get influenced by India. We use electronic voting machines from India in our elections…even schools are using them for their elections."

He said Bhutan for the first time is now going to allow use of social media for electioneering. "This will enable political parties to reach out to voters. But, we will keep a check and not allow any slander," he said. He said the Indian system of issuing voter slips and sending SMS to voters will also be tried in Bhutan, which goes to polls early next year. "We are also working on creating biometric data of voters and use of SMS," he said.

Poll officials from Bhutan have already received training during previous elections in India, he said, adding, "We had sent a team of our election officials for Uttar Pradesh polls. I myself had visited Karnataka during elections earlier." Chief Election Commissioner of Bangladesh Kazi Rakibuddin Ahamad also said his country was looking forward to adopting some good election practices from India. "We have just started…yes, we are looking forward to use EVMs in our country," Kazi Ahamad told PTI.

Bangladesh also showcased its 100 per cent biometric database of voters in the country, which impressed India`s election officials at the SAARC conference. Ahamad said the Bangladesh EC was now using digital cameras for creating database of voters` photos, as the previous database is created with use of web-cameras and some images were not very clear.

Afghanistan and Nepal are also seeking to get their election officials trained by India`s Election Commission and look forward to emulating some of India`s poll management process also. Pakistan, however, said it had already set up an election training institute in their country two years ago, which India has done now.