Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Elections in the World

Sunil Arora with the A-WEB flag which was handed over by the outgoing Chairman of A-WEB from Romania, Ion Mincu Radulescu, at the inauguration of the 4th General Assembly meeting of A-WEB, in Bengaluru on September 3, 2019. Photo: PIB (file photo)
Sunil Arora with the A-WEB flag which was handed over by the outgoing Chairman of A-WEB from Romania, Ion Mincu Radulescu, at the inauguration of the 4th General Assembly meeting of A-WEB, in Bengaluru on September 3, 2019. Photo: PIB (file photo)

On completion of one year of Chairmanship of the Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB), Election Commission of India (ECI) hosted an international webinar on September 21 on the Theme ‘‘Issues, Challenges and Protocols for Conducting Elections during Covid-19 : Sharing Country Experiences.”

According to a communique released by the Indian government, it was an occasion for democracies world over to come together to share experiences of conducting elections during Covid-19.

Last year, India had taken over as Chair of A-WEB for 2019-2021 term during the 4th General Assembly of A-WEB held at Bengaluru. Inaugurating the webinar, the Chief Election Commissioner of India and Chairperson, A-WEB Sunil Arora spoke of the “tough predicament” faced by Election Management Bodies (EMBs) across the world in holding scheduled elections in a state of public health emergency.

He said the contextual framework of every country was different, the extent and trajectory of the disease varied and so did the capacity of each country to respond to the novel coronavirus and its catastrophic impact.

He mentioned countries such as South Korea, Australia, Malawi, Taiwan, Mongolia, and many others who went ahead with scheduled elections even as they put in place the enormous arrangements required to ensure the health and safety of people while conducting election.

Sunil Arora mentioned that Elections in India pose formidable challenges on account of large electorate, geographical, and linguistic diversity and differing climatic conditions. Explaining in detail the scale of the upcoming elections to the Legislative Assembly of Bihar, he mentioned that the total number of electors is 72.9 million.

Explaining the impact of Covid-19 on the election, Arora highlighted how Covid-19 exigencies and social distancing measures necessitated a revisit of ECI’s extant instructions. The maximum number of electors at a polling station was reduced from 1500 to 1000, and consequently, the number of polling stations jumped by 40 per cent, from 65,000 to 100,000.

The Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB) is an association of EMBs worldwide. At present A-WEB has 115 EMBs as Members and 16 Regional Associations / Organizations as Associate Members.

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Rakesh Raman