Elections Current Affairs - 2020

AESF-IV: 4th Asian electoral stakeholders forum held in Colombo, Sri Lanka

The fourth edition of Asian electoral stakeholders forum (AESF-IV) was held Colombo, Sri Lanka to discuss the state of elections and democracy in the region. This was for first time AESF was held in South Asia. It was jointly organised by Election Commission of Sri Lanka and Asian network for free elections (ANFREL).

AESF-IV

The theme of AESF-IV was ‘Advancing Election Transparency and Integrity: Promoting and Defending Democracy Together‘. It was attended by more than 250 delegates from 45 countries. India was represented by Chief Electoral Officer of Maharashtra Ashwini Kumar and NGO.

It covered wide array of crucial election issues like current state of democracy in Asia, common electoral challenges in the region, and various good practices employed to make elections better. It culminated with endorsement of landmark document, urging election stakeholders from within Asia and beyond to promote and defend democracy in the region.

Asian electoral stakeholders forum (AESF)

ASEF is the largest gathering of election management bodies (EMBs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) in Asia. It is being held in order to secure the broad establishment of democracy and security when holding elections within the region.

It provides opportunity for Asian election commissions, election observers, non-government organizations (NGOs) and interstate bodies to gather and discuss state of elections and democracy in the region. It also provides platform for institutionalizing capacity building efforts to pave the way for more meaningful and credible election through cooperation among stakeholders.

Previous AESF gatherings were instrumental in setting benchmarks and guidelines on conducting truly democratic elections which respect internationally recognized human rights and election principles and norms.  The first AESF was held in Thailand in 2012 and had endorsed Bangkok Declaration on Free and Fair Elections. The second AESF was held in Dili, Timor Leste in 2015 and had established Dili Indicators of Democratic Elections. The third AESF was held in 2016 in Bali, Indonesia which had framed Bali Commitment: Eight Keys to Electoral Integrity.

Law Commission of India favours simultaneous elections

Law Commission of India, the government’s highest law advisory body has released draft White Paper recommending holding of simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The commission, headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice B.S. Chauhan has decided to seek opinion of all stakeholders, including political parties, on the issue.

Law Commission’s recommendations

Law Commission noted that simultaneous elections were held in country during first two decades after Independence up to 1967. Dissolution of certain Assemblies in 1968 and 1969 followed by dissolution of Lok Sabha led to disruption of conduct of simultaneous elections.

Simultaneous elections can be held now in the nation by amending Constitution, Representation of the People (RPI) Act, 1951 and Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha/State Legislative Assemblies. Moreover, definition of simultaneous elections should be added to Section 2 of RPI Act, 1951.

Issuance of Notification: The statutory limit of six months for issuance of notification of general elections be appropriately extended by way of amendments to section 14 and 15 of RPI Act, 1951.

No-confidence motion: The parties which introduce no-confidence motion should simultaneously give a suggestion for an alternative government as no-confidence motion and premature dissolution of House is major roadblocks to simultaneous elections.

Anti-defection law: The rigour of ‘Anti-defection Law’ laid down under paragraph 2(1) (b) of Tenth Schedule be removed as exception in order to prevent stalemate in the Lok Sabha/Assembly in case of Hung Parliament/Assembly.

Mid-term elections: In case of mid-term elections, new Lok Sabha or Assembly will only serve the remainder of term of previous Lok Sabha/Assembly and not a fresh term of five years. For this Article 83 and 172 of the Constitution along with sections 14 and 15 of the 1951 Act should be amended to incorporate provision regarding remainder of the term.

Selection of Prime Minister/CMs: The prime minister/chief ministers should be elected to lead Lok Sabha/Assembly, by full house like electing speaker of Lok Sabha. This will potentially provide stability to government and in turn to Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly

Constitutional amendments: Centre should get the Constitutional amendments, if agreed upon, to be ratified by all the States so as to avoid any challenge to them.

Background

The idea of ‘one nation one election’ has been proposed for many years starting with Law Commission suggestion in 1999. Most recently, Parliament’s standing committee 2015 report suggested holding simultaneous election to save public money and end policy paralysis because of impact of the model code of conduct. It had pegged the cost of holding elections for Lok Sabha and state assemblies at Rs. 4500 crore. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had pitched for this idea.