The Election Commission of India (ECI) today hosted the Virtual International Election Visitor Program (ENPI) 2022 for Election Management Bodies (EMBs) from nearly 32 countries and four international organizations. An overview of the ongoing elections for the Legislative Assemblies of Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh was presented to over 150 EMB delegates participating online. Ambassadors/High Commissioners and other members of the diplomatic corps based in India from nine countries also participated in today’s virtual ENPI 2022.

India has hosted the International Election Visitors Program (ENPI) since the 2012 elections where international delegates are invited to visit polling stations and see the election processes in practice for themselves in person. Even during the Covid pandemic with travel restrictions, the ENPI in India has not been interrupted and continues to be held in an innovative virtual mode. During today’s half-day session, recorded video footage of polling activities in the five states was shown to participants. Live streaming of today’s voting activities from polling stations in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh was broadcast along with a detailed briefing on the electoral process. In the closing session, the Chief Electoral Commissioner and the Electoral Commissioners addressed the delegates.

Live broadcast of voting activities from a polling station in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Addressing the international delegates, India’s Chief Election Commissioner and Chairman of A-Web, Shri Sushil Chandra, pointed out that despite the COVID-19 pandemic posing several logistical challenges in conducting the elections, the India once again held elections in five states with 183.4 million voters in 690 Assembly Constituencies, making our electoral system more inclusive, accessible and participatory. While highlighting the various initiatives taken by the Election Commission of India to facilitate voters of elderly, disabled and women, he appreciated the innovative and localized solutions implemented by the field officers to overcome the obstacles. faced by various categories of voters. He mentioned that more than 11 million new voters have been added for the ongoing elections in the five states. He added that the extension of the mail-in ballot system to older people and voters with disabilities has literally kicked the ECI out of voters’ doorsteps and that consistent efforts have led to enthusiastic female voter participation in these elections compared to their male counterparts. For example, in Uttarakhand, the participation rate for women was 67.2% against 62.6% for men; Goa recorded 80.96% female participation while male participation was 78.19%.

Shri Chandra informed that in view of COVID social distancing norms and reduced number of voters at polling stations, a total of over 2.15 lakh polling stations have been set up in five states, which represents an increase of almost 31,000 polling stations from the previous elections in 2017. Upholding the motto “No voter should be left behind”, our election staff traversed difficult terrain and snowy regions in Uttarakhand and also reached remote and sensitive parts of Manipur, even though the electoral parties had to be airlifted or crossed on foot in these areas. In border areas to ensure security, drones have been put under surveillance. Vigilance on social media posts was also maintained to ensure that no undue misinformation vitiated the survey process. Efforts by expenditure control teams ensured an incentive-free election.

In its speech, the CEC also highlighted the special adaptive changes made by the ECI in the ongoing elections in five states, to mitigate the risk of the spread of covid-19 and to make polling stations a safe place for voters. Virtual campaign mode for much of the period, focus on full immunization status in ballot-related states, regular interactions with health authorities, helped the ECI ensure safe elections against the COVID.

Acknowledging the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Election Commissioner Shri Rajiv Kumar said the Commission’s aim was to work with three main objectives: Covid-safe elections, a comfortable and hassle-free voting experience and maximum voter turnout. While elaborating on the special measures taken by the ECI to guarantee the security of the COVID elections, he mentioned that the Commission took a graduated response by maintaining a balance between the candidates and the parties having the right to campaign and with the evolution of the COVID-19 situation, ensuring the safety of voters and electoral staff. . Highlighting the facilitation for different categories of voters in the ongoing elections, Shri Kumar mentioned that the ECI has reached nearly 5.3 lakhs of service voters, 13 lakh of PwD voters and large number of voters centenarians.

Welcoming the delegates, Election Commissioner Shri Anup Chandra Pandey highlighted the key milestones, including the adoption of the Model Code of Conduct, Election Observer Delegation Scheme, EVM-VVPAT and Information Technology and of communication in the glorious course of Indian elections over the past 70 years. to ensure free, fair, transparent and ethical elections. He also gave an overview of the various initiatives taken by the ECI including connecting voters through SVEEP and user-friendly polling stations to facilitate voter registration and facilitation for various categories of voters for better electoral turnout.

Secretary General and Head of India’s A-WEB Center at ECI Shri Umesh Sinha, while giving an overview of India’s Election Commission’s association with Election Management Bodies across the globe , said that this ENPI program provides a platform for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of experiences, best practices and skills in the field of electoral management with various countries. India’s International Election Visitor Program interactions and initiatives and learn from each other’s experiences to adopt best practices tailored to their specific needs.

Over 150 delegates from nearly 32 countries around the world including Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Croatia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, Guinea, Guyana, Kenya, Liberia, Maldives, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Romania, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Suriname, Tanzania and Uzbekistan and 4 international organizations including International IDEA, International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES), Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB) and Community of Democracies participated in ENPI 2022 today. Mr. Jonghyun Choe, Secretary General of the World Association of Electoral Bodies, High Commissioners and Diplomats from Australia, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Fiji, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Switzerland participated in the event.

(With GDP entries)