10th Annual Conference on Electoral and Political Reforms

Election Commissioner Mr. H.S. Brahma announces:

* E-Filing of election nominations: Candidates contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha 2014 elections will now be able to e-file (in a web-based form) their nominations as well as affidavits, in addition to filing the same in paper form. The Election Commission of India (ECI) will soon ask the government to modify the current rules regarding the same so that e-filing is made mandatory. This move of the ECI holds the potential to accelerate the process of dissemination of information regarding the criminal, financial, educational and other background details of candidates contesting elections.

* Launch of Citizen Reporting tool (EWR): The Election Commissioner launched a citizen reporting tool- “Election Watch Reporter” (EWR-an android based application developed by the National Election Watch . He also recommended that the same be used by the Election Commission in the upcoming elections to keep a check on electoral malpractices like bribing of voters (by liquor distribution, cash etc); and excessive spending by candidates. This tool will enable citizens to capture photographic evidence (with precise GPS location and time) of any wrongdoing in and around elections and report it instantaneously to the nearest Election Commission observers.

* Investigation of non-contesting Political Parties: There are around 1600 registered political parties in the country, but only a few have contested elections regularly. ADR should study why political parties feel the need to get registered but are not interested in contesting elections.

· Mr. Brahma states “if we choose good candidates, the benefits will flow back to us in the society”. Further he says the following:-

* Quality of Politics and quality of leadership are the most important determinants for the governance of a country.

* Along with quantity of voting i.e. high voting turnouts we also need quality in voting i.e. individuals with honesty and integrity entering legislature.

* In pronouncing the 10th July, 2013 judgment that banned convicted MPs and MLAs from continuing in office, the Supreme Court of India along with persistent perseverance of civil society organizations achieved in one day what the Election Commission of India had not been able to achieve for decades.

Ranchi, 15th Feb 2014: The first day of the 10th Annual Conference on Electoral and Political Reforms, being organised by National Election Watch (NEW) and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), sees the Election Commissioner Mr. H.S Brahma gracing the occasion with an extended speech covering issues concerning the current electoral and political system in the country. He speaks on the following issues while also providing his valuable views –

· Not much has been done with respect to political reforms. Issues of financial transparency and internal democracy with regard to political parties are of paramount importance for accountable and strong delivery based governance in the country.

· Civil society organizations can play an important role in elections by disseminating background information on candidates contesting elections and by popularizing the NOTA (None of the above) button in EVMs.

· NOTA is a strong instrument that has been made available to voters. In the Chhattisgarh 2013 Assembly elections, NOTA was used in large numbers. In the coming years NOTA will assume greater criticality.

· Current rules do not allow the Election Commission to investigate election affidavits and also the commission does not have the power to monitor expenses made by parties and candidates before the nomination process begins.

· India needs a larger number of strong think tanks working in the area of electoral and political reforms, much like those in developed nations; Very few think-tanks in India currently are of world class standard.

Mera Vote Mera Desh (MVMD) Campaign: At the conference, the coordinators of various state chapters of National Election Watch shared their plans for ADR’s nationwide campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha 2014 elections. The campaign will be carried out on all possible means of communication be it digital (social media, web based), electronic (TV, FM radio) and other outdoor avenues of advertising. The objectives of the campaign are

· To disseminate the findings of the ADR survey (largest survey ever conducted in India in about 530 Lok Sabha constituencies)

1) to ascertain the real issues of voters around the country
2) to assess the real performance of MPs as assessed by voters in their constituencies (based on a set of parameters)

· To disseminate background information of candidates who will be contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections

· To make voters aware of the link between electoral evils such as bribing by candidates and bad governance.

· To popularize among voters provisions such as NOTA in EVM etc