India Election Diary 2014: Namibia’s Electoral Team Studies the Elections

A seven member delegation from the Election Commission of Namibia visited Bangalore, Karnataka on 17 April 2014 to witness the country’s impressive election management. The visit was organized as part of a partnership between UNDP and ECI to further South-South cooperation on electoral management.

By Pushpa Achanta

Highlight Title

  • A seven-member delegation from the Electoral Commission of Namibia visited Bangalore, Karnataka on 17 April 2014 to witness the country’s election management
  • ECN team saw live webcasting of the polls undertaken with the assistance of college students and volunteers
  • The team also interacted with the transgender voters of the Hebbal Dasarahalli area in the Bangalore North parliamentary constituency
  • The visit was organized as part of a partnership between UNDP and ECI to further South-South cooperation on electoral management
  • Namibia has purchased 1,700 EVMs and ordered 3,400 more from Indian manufacturer Bharat Electronics Limited

Bangalore, April 17 - Innovative electoral practices by the Election Commission of India, record voter turnouts and plenty of political drama have been the highlights of India’s 16th General Election.

A seven member delegation from the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) visited Bangalore, Karnataka’s state capital and the country’s IT hub to catch all the poll action on 17 April 2014, the largest single day of voting in the five-week national election.    

The visit was organized as part of a partnership between UNDP and the Election Commission of India to further South-South cooperation on electoral management. UNDP sees South-South cooperationas a broad framework for countries of the global South to share learnings and identify solutions for key development challenges common to them. The conduct of transparent and credible elections is one of them. 

According to Professor Paul John Isaak, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Electoral Commission of Namibia said, “We wanted to witness the parliamentary elections here, particularly the use of the Electronic Voter Machines (EVMs) for free and fair elections. The idea is to learn from India’s incredible experience in generating awareness on the use of EVMs. Namibia goes to the polls in November 2014 and we will be deploying EVMs for the first time. EVMs would help save paper, reduce corruption, and make the electoral process more simple and efficient. Meanwhile, we are waiting for suitable amendments in the law to usher in electronic voting.” 

Namibia has purchased 1,700 EVMs and has ordered 3,400 more from Indian manufacturer Bharat Electronics Limited. In 2013, Namibia had sent a few members from their Information Technology team to familiarize themselves with their functioning. The ECN also expressed interest in sending a delegation to understand the vote counting process, including the software used at results centres during the announcement of results. 

Nicodemus Mingelius from the ECN’s IT team remarked, “There are differences. For instance, we do not have the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option and our EVMs have been customized to allow voters to correct their entries in case of a mistake.” 

The ECN team also saw the live webcasting of the polls in the IT hub undertaken with the assistance of college students and volunteers. Both these initiatives by the Election Commission of India have been introduced at model and sensitive polling stations across India.

For the Namibian delegation, the high point of voting day was their interaction with the transgender voters of the Hebbal Dasarahalli area in the Bangalore North parliamentary constituency. The Election Commission has included transgender persons in the 'Other' category for voter identity cards, thereby providing them with a separate identity. The Supreme Court of India had only recently recognized this category as the third gender. Said Madhumala, 34, a transgender person, “I have lived in this neighbourhood for 15 years. While I had applied for a voter identification card years ago, it was issued only two years ago as my school certificates were in the name of the boy that I was born as.” After listening to them, According to Jesse Munishiwe, ECN’s Operations team, “This is the first time I have met and spoken to transgender persons and heard about the discrimination that they experience. I am impressed with their self-confidence and candour. We do not have a separate category that permits gender minorities to identify themselves as per their choice but we must take that into consideration.” 

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Voices of members of transgender community from Karnataka, India who voted as ‘others’ in the 2014 national elections. In 2009, the Election Commission of India had issued a directive allowing a third gender choice – "other" – on voter registration forms.

Projects and Initiatives
Supporting Democratic Electoral Management (September 2013 - December 2017)

The project aims to promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences in the field of election management and administration with other developing countries through the Election Commission of India.

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Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation: India National Document (2009-2014)
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This publication by the Election Commission of India and supported by UNDP, captures India’s experience with the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation Programme that catalyzed historic voter turnout in national elections in 2014. The report includes good practices, innovations and lessons learnt, and provides valuable observations on governance structures, particularly for new democracies and countries in transition.

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