Elections Current Affairs

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India contributes USD 2,50,000 to Election Assistance Division of UN

India has contributed USD 2,50,000 to the UN Election Assistance Division to help other countries to hold elections and develop their electoral systems. This is the second time that India has contributed USD 2,50,000 towards electoral assistance and capacity building. The first assistance was made in 2012.

UN Election Assistance Division

UN Election Assistance Division was set up in 1991 to help member states to build credible and sustainable national electoral systems. The UN electoral assistance is based on the principle established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  According to it, “the will of the people, as expressed through periodic and genuine elections, shall be the basis of government authority”.

Under this programme, UN has assisted over 100 countries with their elections. Though it principally provides technical assistance for conducting elections, it has also sent observers at the request of the General Assembly or the Security Council to ensure the integrity of elections conducted at different countries.

In the 1990s, UN under this programme has provided popular consultations in the countries like Timor-Leste, South Africa, Mozambique, El Salvador and Cambodia. Recently, it has provided technical and logistical assistance to conduct elections in countries like Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Sudan.

Types of Assistance
  • Technical assistance
  • Election observation and other assessments
  • Organization or Supervision of Elections.
UN entities providing electoral assistance
  • The Department of Political Affairs (DPA)
  • The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)
  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • United Nations Volunteers (UNV)
  • The United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS)
  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

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Union Cabinet clears Election Commission’s proposal to buy VVPAT machines

The Union Cabinet has cleared the Election Commission’s proposal to buy new Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. The machines are expected to be used in the 2019 General Elections. The Union Cabinet has permitted the Election Commission (EC) to procure 16,15,000 units, at an estimated base price of Rs. 3,173.47 crore. So far, EC has sent at least 11 reminders to the Centre seeking funds for procuring VVPAT machines.

The Centre has chosen Bengaluru-based Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Hyderabad-based Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) to manufacture the VVPAT units. The government has also directed the Price Negotiation Committee to negotiate the final unit price. It is expected that the two PSUs will need at least 30 months to produce over 16 lakh VVPATs.

Need

The Supreme Court has asked the Election Commission to come up with a tentative time period by which it can use VVPAT machines across all polling stations of the country. The Supreme Court has directed the EC to conduct 2019 national elections entirely with these upgraded machines. Earlier in 2013, SC had directed the EC to introduce VVPAT in a phased manner for 2014 general elections. SC had observed that VVPAT will ensure free and fair polls and help in sorting out disputes.

Earlier in 2013, SC had directed the EC to introduce VVPAT in a phased manner for 2014 general elections. SC had observed that VVPAT will ensure free and fair polls and help in sorting out disputes.

Election Commission has been accused by sixteen parties like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and the congress for allegedly deploying ‘tampered’ EVMs. They have also petitioned EC to revert back to paper ballot system for greater transparency.

VVPAT machines- Significance

The usage of VVPAT machines of the Election Commission is expected to ensure free and fair elections. In the VVPAT system, when a voter presses the button for a candidate of his choice in the electronic voting machines (EVM), a paper ballot containing the serial number, the name of the candidate and poll symbol will be printed for the voter. The voters will be able to view the voter-verifiable paper audit trail slip for seven seconds after which it will get deposited in a sealed box.

VVPAT machines can be regarded as an independent verification system as it (i) allows voters to verify that their votes are cast correctly, (ii) detects possible election fraud or malfunction and (iii) Provides a means to audit the stored electronic results.

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Government introduces alternative funding mechanism of electoral bonds: Budget

The Union Government has announced two measures in the Budget 2017-18 to bring in greater transparency in funding of political parties.

These include capping cash funding by a single anonymous donor to Rs. 2000 (one tenth of the current limit of Rs 20,000) and introduction of the electoral bonds. It will take effect from 1 April, 2018.

Key Facts
  • The finance bill lays out the way ahead for capping cash funding and sale of electoral bonds by proposing amendments in the section 13A of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 and to Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
  • The amendment to I-T Act will provide political party exemption if the donation not exceeding Rs. 2,000 is received through instruments such as cheque, draft, electronic clearing system or electoral bond.
  • The amendment of RBI Act will facilitate introduction of electoral bonds. These bonds will be instrument to donate money to political parties and the RBI will acts as the intermediary.
  • Donors can purchase bonds only through cheque or digital mode, helping to track record of the source of the purchase.
  • These bonds shall be redeemable only in the designated account of a registered political party and within the prescribed time limit from issuance of bond.
  • The bond bearer’s identity will be unlikely revealed in the books of the political party and the recipient party will also remain unknown.

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