India, Pakistan can learn from poll experiences: Pakistan official

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New Delhi, Oct 19 (IANS) India and Pakistan can learn from each other’s experiences in holding elections in heterogeneous societies and in ensuring greater voter participation, a senior Pakistan Election Commission official said on Wednesday.

“The purpose of our meeting here is to share our experience vis-a-vis holding of fair elections and sensitising voters for greater participation,” Altaf Ahmad, Director in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) told IANS.

Ahmad was speaking on the sidelines of a two-day international conference on voters’ education organised by the Election Commission of India in association with the United Nations Development Programme here.

“This is a great learning platform. We can share our knowledge here,” he said of the conference, where heads or senior officials of election bodies from 27 countries are participating.

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Highlighting the efforts made by the ECP, Ahmad said that voter participation has been increasing with each election in Pakistan.

“This is thanks to the efforts put in by the ECP that voter participation is increasing. For example, the voter turnout in the 2008 general election was a little more than 40 per cent, compared with more than 50 per cent in 2013,” he said.

He said this percentage may go up to 70 per cent in the next general election.

“I am hoping for this, given the Election Commission’s efforts to sensitise voters on their rights,” Ahmad said.

Asked if greater voter participation will strengthen democracy in Pakistan where military is perceived as more dominant, Ahmad declined comment.

“I have been given a mandate, and that mandate is voter education. The role and endeavour of the ECP is to ensure fair elections with more and more participation of voters,” he said.

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Ahmad said the election panel in his country is using informal channels for voters’ education such as utility bills, roadside hoardings and SMSes, postal services as well as religious places such as mosques, churches and temples etc.

“For a fair and truly participative elections, the entire system must contribute,” he said.



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