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A year of three billon ballots

With almost 3 billion people representing 42& of the human race going to the polling booths in 40 countries around the world, 2014 ought to go down in history as ‘the most decisive year.’

From our point of view, general election in just three countries, New Zealand, Fiji and India are significant. India would be the first country to go to the polls with more than 810 million people casting their votes between April 7 and May 12. Fiji has announced that it would hold its first democratic election in almost eight years in September, while New Zealanders are gearing to choose their next government any time from September to November.

Elections are the most important part of the democratic process, irrespective of the brand of democracy followed. The parties that come to power in 40 countries this year would indicate the way in which the world is moving. Among the important ones to note are Turkey, which will elect its first President, Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world, Afghanistan, where democracy is under serious test, South Africa and Latin America. These 40 countries account for more than 50% of the world’s GDP, estimated to be US$ 85 trillion.’

According to Alberto Nardelli of ‘Electionista,’ the keyword is stability.

There is the possibility that three regions of the world will end the year with a very different political balance. In local elections, tensions will be apparent, especially in countries rife with protests in 2013, such as Greece and Turkey and for amusement, Torontos mayoral race will be decided in October. There will also be a referendum on Scotlands independence and a planned one for Catalonia,” he said.

It is however unfortunate that the first election of 2014 went badly, with bloodshed and boycotts marring polling in Bangladesh on January 5.

The general election in India will be watched with great interest by world leaders, for stability in world’s largest democracy is critical for global balance. Opinion polls suggest that the likeliest winner is the Bharatiya Janata Party, which hopes to make Narendra Modi the next prime minister.

The mammoth electoral effort is an example of India working at its best. It is relevant globally, as a corrective action and for improving worldwide prospects of democracy.

As the Economist said, prolonged and massive, the general election in India will involve a sixth of the world’s population in one go.

“Potential first-time voters alone, at 100 million, are the rough equivalent of the entire population of the Philippines, being added to the democratic fold in one go. The likely result, with the smooth and peaceful transition of power from one party to its rival, will be testimony to the maturity of Indian democracy.”

Indian elections, unlike those in nearby Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh are by and large peaceful.

That in itself is a great testimony to the country’s democratic tradition.

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