Presentation by Shri Navin B Chawla in Male 13-15 June 2011

"60 YEARS OF THE ELECTORAL PROCESS, AND THE WAY AHEAD"
PRESENTATION BY
THE FORMER CHIEF ELECTION COMMISSIONER OF INDIA, NAVIN B. CHAWLA UNDER THE
AUSPICES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PETROLEUM & ENERGY STUDIES, DEHRADUN
2ND SEPTEMBER 2011

The structure of Parliamentary democracy must necessarily rest on the exercise of franchise by citizens freely and transparently. Elections constitute the signpost of democracy and need to be held at regular intervals to ascertain the political preferences of the electorate. Free and fair elections provide the much needed legitimacy to Governments to govern. The nature and extent of political participation is an important determinant for the effectiveness of democratic governance, and political parties must necessarily play a crucial rule in this respect. Political parties are primarily responsible through peoples participation for democratizing the entire process of governance. They constitute the institutional mechanism through which people express their views on public affairs for the consideration of the government. They play an essential part in the electoral system, bringing people together onto common political platforms, facilitating alliances among different interest groups, selecting candidates and electing leaders in the course of their own organizational elections.

Political parties thus play the important role in formulating public policies. Peoples active participation in politics makes political parties more responsive to popular aspirations. Voters must be able to vote out of office parties that are not able to live upto mandated expectations, and the parties they deem can fulfill their mandate must be facilitated to enter governance. Participation is simultaneously an assertion of control or influence over governments by those who have elected them. A democratic society expects the involvement and participation of the citizens throughout the process from elections, through referendums where ever they are held, through the voices of civil society groups, to impact on the government they have elected.

The way in which political parties perceive governance indicates their concern and response to the problems and aspirations of people. There is usually the published manifesto that political parties prepare before elections, and that is the available document that defines the aims and goalposts of the political formations concerned. This also helps in a more concise understanding of the differences between political parties perception of governance, and their ability or otherwise to implement the benchmarks that they set for themselves as a polity. An understanding of parties’ manifestos is necessary to examine the implementation of policies and programmes on which they contest the elections.

Democracy can also be described in a sense as revolution by consent enforced through elections. Democratic elections provide the platform for citizens to assert their civil and political rights by holding their elected representatives accountable.

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