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India, US to take fair poll practices to W Asia, Africa
[July 22, 2011]

India, US to take fair poll practices to W Asia, Africa

Jul 22, 2011 (Hindustan Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- World's biggest democracies, India and United States, have joined hands to help building up strong electoral institutions in emerging democracies, especially in middle-east and Africa. As part of the collaboration, the Election Commission's newly started International Institute for Democracy and Election Management (IIDEM) and Washington DC based International Federation of Electoral Systems (IFES) will work together to strengthen election management capacity in the interested countries.

"We will be training officials from middle-east and African nations in conducting free and fair elections," chief election commissioner SY Quraishi told HT, a day after US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in Chennai described the commission as a "gold standard" institution. Reaction to her statement, the CEC said, "We feel the credibility and reputation of Election Commission has gone beyond our boundaries".

The Commission has already received request from Egypt to provide indelible ink for conducting elections later this year and IIDEM has conducted a tailor made course for election officers from Kenya. The commission has provided inputs to some other middle-eastern countries such as Bahrain, Yemen and Tunisia on voter participation and awareness programmes, commission officials said.

The Indo-US partnership is likely to start with Egypt where EC has requested the government to provide the indelible ink free of cost as a "gift" and IFES has conducted several voter awareness campaigns.

Now, the two institutions would work on providing technical expertise to countries, which do not have much experience in conducting elections. The Electronic Voting Machines, which has been successfully used Indian elections, has generated a lot of interest abroad. "We have provided some EVMs for demonstration to middle-eastern countries and officials from Kenya were also trained on using EVMs," a commission official said.

In the last on year, the EC has broadened its global presence with signing of Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) with Brazil, Russia, Nepal and Chile and will soon be signing cooperation agreements with Mauritius, Indonesia, South Africa and Thailand.

"This is part of an effort to share global experiences for effective electoral systems in upcoming democracries," a senior EC official said. The agreement with the United States is another step in this direction.

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