A delegation of the Election Commission of India visited South Africa and Mauritius

The Election Commission of India is considering introducing an electronically transmitted postal voting system (ETPBS) for overseas voters, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra said during recent interactions with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in South Africa and Mauritius.

The CEC also urged them to register as overseas voters, as current numbers are “abnormally low.”

The interactions took place when a delegation led by CEC Chandra visited the two countries from 9 to 19 April.

During this visit, a series of meetings were held with the Election Commissions of South Africa and Mauritius, as well as interactions with the large NRI community in the two countries, the Election Commission of India (ECI) said on Friday.

A briefing cum interaction was organized with the NRI community at Cape Town on April 10; Johannesburg on April 12 and at Port Louis on 18th April 18.

During these interactions, Chandra also highlighted the new electoral reforms undertaken in the past few months which included four qualifying dates in a year for registration of eligible citizens as electors as compared to once a year earlier, linking of Electoral Roll and Aadhar data and extension of postal ballot facility to new categories of voters i.e. senior citizens aged 80 plus years, PWDs and Covid affected persons.

The Election Management Bodies (EMBs) of South Africa and Mauritius are also MOU partners with ECI.

"The three countries share a relationship that is fundamental and unique, rooted in the collective experiences and cumulative strength of their people,” the ECI said.

A major highlight of the visit was a tripartite meeting between ECI, Glen Mashinini, Chairperson, Electoral Commission of South Africa and Jonghyun Choe, Secretary General, Association of World Election Bodies (AWEB) in Pretoria, South Africa on April 12.

India is currently the Chair of AWEB, the largest conglomeration of 118 EMBs of the world and South Africa is the Vice Chair. Both India and South Africa are the founding members of this organization.

CEC Chandra said South Africa had made great strides in democracy and will host the next AWEB general meeting in October 2022.

While highlighting the need for AWEB to reinvent itself, Chandra stressed on three areas for further strengthening of this institution, the ECI said.

First, AWEB must endeavour to come out with standard protocols for various aspects of election management which will be known as AWEB global standards and will help EMBs to work towards achieving these goals.

Two, increasing the interaction between members through regional thematic summits, celebrating significant dates in the AWEB calendar like its foundation day on the pattern of India’s National Voters’ Day and developing an annual activities calendar for AWEB.

Three, intensifying sharing of best practices, training and capacity building.

He offered that ECI would be happy to organize more training programs including customized programmes for AWEB members at India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM).

CEC Chandra met with Mohd. Irfan Abdool Rahman, Electoral Commissioner of Mauritius at Port Louis on April 18, the ECI added.

"The two EMBs are not only closely connected through the formal relationship of MoU but also by a close relationship of understanding of each others’ systems, support and drawing strength from each other. CEC gave a snapshot of recent elections held in India and stated that the two Commissions would continue sharing best practices, skills and experiences for mutual benefit," the ECI said.