India's protracted election
Speed it up
THE sixth phase of India’s protracted general election took place on April 24th. Voters trooped to polling stations in 117 constituencies in various states including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As with other rounds there was much to cheer: first-time voters, enthusiasm in cities and villages, determination to take part despite the heat. Momentum seems to be with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi. A late surge of support for the BJP is reported even in places—West Bengal, Odisha—where the party has traditionally not done well. If true, its prospects of forming the next government look stronger by the day.
4月24日，印度举行了它那慢吞吞的大选的第6阶段。选民们向包括泰米尔纳德邦，马哈拉施特拉，喀什米尔，北方邦，比哈尔邦的117个投票站进发。该轮相比之前的阶段，有很多地方值得喝彩：例如新选民，例如城乡的选举热情，以及不惧酷暑参与大选的决心。局势上穆迪领导的人民党似乎占了上风。最近甚至有报道在奥里萨邦的西孟加拉 – 人民党传统上的弱势地区 – 也传出了对人民党的支持。如果消息确实，人民党（赢得大选）组阁的预期日益走强。
Three more rounds of voting are due, the last on May 12th, before results are published on May 16th. It constitutes a marathon election. The voting period is eight days longer than last time, in 2009. Count in all the official campaigning and India will have been busy with its general election for a whopping 72 days. The local devotion to voting looks more remarkable with each successive election. As the population grows, and so the electorate, the process will presumably get more protracted yet. The next national poll is likely in 2019, by when more days of voting, and further rounds, may be needed to accommodate many more tens of millions of new voters.
剩下的投票还有3轮，最后一轮在5月12日进行，将在5月16日公布。整个大选是马拉松式的。相比2009年的上届大选投票，这次还多了8天。算起来，整个印度将为这个大选花去高达72天的时间。每一次成功的选举背后，当地社会的投入令人印象深刻。随着人口的增长 – 当然选民就增长了 – 整个流程预想将会愈发的漫长。在2019年的下一次大选里，在更多天数和更多轮次的情况下，（投票间里）也许就又要容纳下好几千万新选民
Are long elections a problem? They can certainly grow tedious, as some rightly point out that other big countries hold elections much quicker. Brazil, Indonesia and America can all get it done in a single day. The European parliamentary elections next month, across the whole of the European Union, will wrap up within four days. One of the reasons Thailand’s recent general election was annulled was because of a failure to abide by its constitution and hold it in a single day.
The Election Commission in Delhi retorts that India is different. Its electorate is massive at some 815m people, spread across some difficult areas (mountains, islands, forests, slums) and in many places there are worries about security. Though the poll is generally clean and well run, there are examples of attempted rigging, of terrorist attacks (left-wing Naxalites or Maoists have struck in this campaign) and other meddling. To preserve legitimacy, all voting booths must be guarded by police under the control of the central government, not states. It takes time to shift these central forces between constituencies, especially while respecting national holidays and schools that double as exam halls for students and polling stations. In any case, 2014 is likely to see a decent turn-out, perhaps not far short of 70%. That can be taken as evidence of satisfaction with the process.
Yet a protracted vote does look problematic. Devoting two or three months almost exclusively to elections—the government in limbo, many businesses holding off investment decisions to see who rules next—seems an unnecessarily long distraction. Prolonged campaigning is presumably a lot more expensive than the shorter sort: all those additional helicopter rides for politicians, rallies, TV and newspaper ads mean a bigger final bill ($3 billion? more?) for the election.
然而，一场旷日持久的投票看起来确实还是有问题。2到3个月的时间里几乎完全投入到选举，政府无人过问，商人们持币观望谁当选了再做投资决策 – 似乎没必要分心这么长时间吧。长时间的选举似乎要比短时间的要昂贵得多：政客们额外的那些直升机旅行、集会、电视和报纸的广告都意味着，大选的结账单会很长（30亿美元？或者更多？）
Most important, a stretched out election violates the idea that all voters should have, in theory, equal knowledge about candidates and parties in the contest. The asymmetry of knowledge between a voter on April 7th and one on May 12th is obvious. Those extra weeks bring news of what candidates say, indication of how earlier rounds of voting went, debate of whether there is a “wave” of support for one party or another. It seems likely that early rounds of voting influence behaviour of voters later on. Imagine, for comparison, if in an American presidential election New Yorkers cast ballots in September, but Californians waited until November.
更重要的是，一个越冒越长的选举违背了一个所有选民都该有的观念，学术上称为“对候选人、政党拥有相同认知”（按字面翻的，专业人士帮忙指正一下吧 – 译者）。一个4月7日投票的选民与一个5月12日投票的选民显然获得的信息是不对称的。在这多出来的几周里将会有如关于政客言论的新闻、前几轮选民选择的数据、关于是否有支持某个政党的“浪潮”的争论。前阶段的投票相当有可能影响之后投票的选民的行为。试想一下，假如纽约人在9月给美国总统大选投票，而加州要等到11月（，那将如何呢）。
Perhaps all this mattered less when India's general elections were generally considered the sum of different contests within various states. But general elections are now increasingly national: given pan-Indian media, the spread of TV, phones and the internet, a more mobile population, along with intense discussion of the role of prime-ministerial candidates. It appears, too, that voters take an increasing interest in national issues, such as corruption, the state of the economy, perhaps even India’s role abroad.
What of the Election Commission’s concerns about security? In fact much more could be done to speed things up, to make the process more efficient. India, more than many countries, is well placed to do so because of the spread of technology. Already India uses electronic voting machines, which make it easy to cast votes and then to count them. Now India should find ways to take advantage of its near-universal mobile phone coverage, rising literacy and the world’s biggest biometric database, Aadhar, which has so far registered 600m people, who can each be given a secure digital identity.
Voters should be offered quick and secure ways to take part in the election by phone or online. For a start, India should study how small countries have successfully done this. Estonia has allowed e-voting, for different sorts of polls, since 2005. Other countries, such as Norway, let you file income tax returns with text messages. Now India should start imagining how to do so on a much bigger scale, beginning with the 600m people who are registered with Aadhar.
If large numbers of voters are able to take part in elections digitally, then two good things could follow. Turn-out might well rise even higher than 70%—the famously reluctant urban middle classes could be more willing to vote if it could be done from the sofa or desk. Second, the pressure on bricks-and-mortar polling stations would be reduced, so fewer would be needed. In turn, the central police force can be spread more easily around the country, so the election can happen quicker.
It may prove impossible to start everyone voting online anytime soon, but the process could at least begin in India's better-off and smaller states and territories (for example in Delhi, Puducherry, Chandigarh and Goa) and then, if successful there, spread elsewhere. Eventually more Indians are likely to grow intolerant of queuing in the fierce heat of April and May to cast an electronic vote. The technology exists to let them cast the same electronic vote digitally and quickly. Ways should be found to make it happen.
vishnugupta Apr 25th 2014 7:31 GMT
The key roadblock seems to be adequate security forces being available to conduct the election in a single phase or at most 2 phases.
This can be solved by drafting the Indian Army reserves for poll security.The army is already used domestically in case of floods or riots so I don't think it would be too much of a problem constitutionally for it to be deployed for say a week.
In any the the general public specially the minorities who accuse police of bias have FAR more confidence in the Indian Army(Who have been known to machine gun rioters when deployed) than the police force.
I think a 10 day election is doable given adequate political will.
Forthview Apr 25th 2014 9:29 GMT
A few questions about the current process, asked out of genuine ignorance and interest.
a) Is the order in which states vote always the same? That might be seen as giving states falling early in the cycle a degree of extra weight as bellwethers but I could imagine that the logistical arguments might impose a standard batting order.
b) Are votes counted at the time and the results kept (supposedly) confidential until a nationwide announcement of all the results or do the ballot boxes in early voting states have to sit (presumably under close guard) until a national count begins? I can see problems with both approaches (counties like Canada which have to stagger voting because of time zone issues have enough trouble maintaining confidentiality over voting patterns in the east of the country until polls shut in British Columbia, the US has never even tried, which one suspects may impact on close races in western states).
In the UK elections back before the First World War were spread out over several weeks (a legacy of a world in which men of property might have votes in several constituencies which all had to be cast in person). Results were known immediately (until the later 19th century voting was not secret; even after the ballot came in it never occured to anybody to impose confidentiality). The perception at the time (I'm not sure whether it's been statistically tested by later historians) was that this tended to exaggerate the scale of landslide wins while making close elections even more hard fought. It also allowed "big guns" to fight more than one seat- a marginal, in which the "name" factor might pull their party to victory and a safe seat for insurance purposes. This explains the nomadic political careers of men like Gladstone and Disraeli, both of whom represented several constituencies over their poltical lives.
Are any of these outcomes observed in the very different world of Indian elections? I deduce from the article that the bandwaggon effect in favour of a perceived winner may apply.....
一站前英国的大选要延绵好几周的时间。（而实际上：）在不同选区拥有资产的人有可能在这些选区（都拥有）投票权，虽然投票权本是一人一票的 - 英国留给世界的遗产（此为嘲讽英国“认钱不认人”“有产者凌驾于法律之上的“反民主传统” – 编者）
billumandal in reply to Forthview Apr 25th 2014 10:55 GMT
a) No the order is different depending upon the time of the year, time of exams and the conflict in fashion now.
b) All votes would be counted at the same day (may 16 this time). The electronic voting machines are kept in a strong room (Safe House) guarded by forces controlled by election commission.
Demos100 Apr 25th 2014 9:30 GMT
Elections? India is dominated by a cast system where families like the Gandhis have no notion of the meaning of rule of law, equal opportunity and honesty.
I am not in a position to criticise the Indian system and its 1.2 billion inhabitants. But I can observe that reporters in publications like the Economist rely on a leisurely description of surface politics. A bit like a doctor who diagnoses patients only by chatting to people who met them casually in a hotel lounge.
khichuri1 in reply to Demos100 Apr 25th 2014 12:02 GMT
What caste system? What do you know about it? You don't even seem to know the spelling? Most Western people who speak like you watched a program on the caste system on National Geographic when they were in school and that's about it. The only thing they know about India is "the caste system", but they are unable to speak more than a few sentences on it. It is a bit like identifying America with racial discrimination or the race system. Surely racial discrimination is one of the things that exist in America, but it is not very illuminating to put it that way. The Economist coverage on India is among the best of all foreign publications. (though many Indians will now disagree because they refused to endorse Narendra Modi as PM). You will know more about India by reading this magazine than you do now.
kiratwan in reply to khichuri1 Apr 25th 2014 23:07 GMT
You just criticised the post. Apparently
you seem to be knowledgeable and good at spelling but didn't enlighten the readers. India's notorious caste system is alive and vigorous. How else you explain Samajwadi or Bhojan Samaj Party alternating in U.P.and similar caste based parties in Bihar. Caste is firmly rooted in the conscious of Indians and is unlikely to fade any time soon.In rural areas Dalits are discriminated against and live in miserable conditions.
khichuri1 in reply to kiratwan Apr 26th 2014 2:07 GMT
To "enlighten" the readers, there has to be some points that are being made to which I can respond logically. That wasn't true of the post to which I responded! As for your post, it is hard to react to statements like "India's notorious caste system is alive and vigorous". How do you react to a statement like "America's notorious racial apartheid and discrimination is alive and vigorous"? You surely can't deny that racial discrimination is alive in USA and many black people experience reality very differently than white people - similarly you cannot deny that caste discrimination exists in India (not just in rural India, but it is a lot worse in rural India). But when we discuss American politics, we don't bring race into it every time without any context or relevance. Therefore the post didn't make sense.
I will respond very briefly to the other points you made. Do you know of the history of the BSP? In which other democracy will a group of marginalized people from the extreme lower strata of society form a political movement and make it the the 3rd largest party in national Parliament within a generation? (2009). The BSP movement in U.P was also accompanied by a rapid improvement in the economic and social indicators for Dalits over the last two decades. Across most states in the North Indian plains (Bihar and U.P for example)the lower castes have replaced the upper castes as the ruling political class and also in administration, a massive social change accompanied by a minimum of violence.(Christophe Jaffrelot is a top researcher on caste - read his book on "India's silent revolution").
I agree caste is deeply rooted in the political consciousness of most Indians - the key word in the last sentence is political. Largely people don't think of it anymore as a hierarchical social ordering to which they attach moral significance or legitimacy but just a marker of identity like class or ethnicity or language. Caste based politics has done some good things for India (it has largely undermined upper caste dominance in politics), but it has also done some bad things. It is past its sell by date and will gradually loose its relevance with greater urbanization and growth of the national media and middle class.
要“启示性”？那我就来理性地谈谈之前提到的几点问题。被我回复的那人贴子里说的都不是真的！至于你的贴子，我实在对“臭名昭著的种姓制度仍然活着，而且活得很好”无话可说。而你又能对诸如“美国臭名昭著的种族隔离和歧视仍然活着，而且活得很好”有啥话说呢？你当然不能否认美国的确仍存在种族歧视，很多黑人的遭遇与白人非常不同 – 同样的道理，不能否认印度存在种姓制度（不光是在农村，但农村更严重）。但在讨论美国政策的时候，除非是相关的，否则我们不会经常把种族问题带入。由此看来，那张贴子的确没意义。
我会有理有据地回应你的另一个观点。你知道Bhojan Samaj党（BSP）的历史吗？还有其他的皿煮国家能够让一群来自社会极端底层的民众发起结党，并且在一代人的时间里成为全国议会第三大党吗？（在2009年他们做到了）。BSP在北方邦的远动也伴随着达利特人在过去的二十年中经济和社会指标的迅速改善。在北印度平原的大多数邦（以北方邦和比哈尔邦为例），低种姓已经取代了高种姓作为执政阶层，在执政机构里也是这样。这个巨大的社会进步仅伴随了最小程度的暴力行为。（Christophe Jaffrelot是种姓制度的顶级研究者，你去读读他的"India's silent revolution"吧）
我同意种姓制度是深深根植于大多数印度人的政治意识 – 这句话的关键是“政治”。主要是人们不把它包含的道德意义和合法性当做一个社会分层的依据了，而是像阶级、种族和语言那样成为一种身份标记。其实基于种姓制度的政治也曾为印度做了些好事(它曾在很大程度上削弱了上层种姓的政治统治地位)，但它也做了一些不好的事情。它将随着城市化的深入、国家性媒体的增加以及中产阶级的成长而逐渐淡出历史的舞台。
american 648 in reply to Demos100 Apr 28th 2014 16:39 GMT
Its not as bad as the the "Race System" we have here in United States and there are a lot of things that does not get reported in the main stream media about the American political system and our leaders.
David_Nerubucha Apr 25th 2014 9:43 GMT
The title of this article "Speed it up" gives it away.
We live in a knowledge based-cum-information era even as this commentary is written. The use of appropriate technology to effect and support the electoral process is no longer a distant capability.
Indeed, the applicability of technological know-how on India's electoral process or, other democratic institutions can easily be done if willingness is accommodated.
Cynical_Indian in reply to David_Nerubucha Apr 27th 2014 15:40 GMT
I live in the UK. Here, the system is even more primitive. Ballot papers stuffed into ballot boxes.
The only "advancement" is the postal ballot which is open to abuse, and is being abused in Tower Hamlets.
Why don't the developed countries show us the way. And please do not insult the Indians by giving the example of any country whose population is under 50 million.
truetool Apr 25th 2014 11:38 GMT
"Those extra weeks bring news of what candidates say, indication of how earlier rounds of voting went, debate of whether there is a “wave” of support for one party or another...."
Firstly, very few people are actually swayed by what the candidates say. Most evaluate how the particular party or candidate has performed over the past five years before casting their vote. As for the "wave" of support and voting trends, most of it is speculation, now that the Election Commission has banned exit polls precisely for this reason.
Secondly, this article mentions the possibility of online or mobile voting to bring the normally reluctant middle classes into the fold. There are several issues with this approach, one of them being that as percentage of the total population, very few people have access to the internet. You might still argue that the number of mobile phone users is huge, but most Indians use mobile phones for relatively simple tasks, like making a call. Casting a vote might require a more sophisticated device and a more sophisticated user. Besides, there would be various security concerns and authentication issues - imagine if a hacker were to wreak havoc on an election day!
In theory, as you say, online voting could still be experimented with in better-off states like Delhi. But the delay is not due to better-off states like Delhi. It is in remote and poor states like Chattisgarh that security forces are most required. Online voting would not be very effective in these states.
So while you encourage India to speed up the elections, perhaps you could slow down and put more thought into this article?
其次，这篇文章提到网络或手机投票带来通常不愿意投票的中产阶级的可能性。这有几个问题，其一是总人口中能够上网的比例太少了。你也许仍然认为手机用户是多么巨大，但大多数印度人只能用手机做简单的事比如打打电话。手机投票可能要求更先进复杂的设备和相应的用户。此外，还有各种安全问题和认证问题 – 你能想象如果选举日成为一个黑客肆虐的日子吗？
guest-issials in reply to truetool Apr 25th 2014 14:20 GMT
You say very few people are swayed by what candidates say. How do you know how many people are swayed and how many are not?
truetool in reply to guest-issials Apr 25th 2014 14:59 GMT
Were you swayed by what I said above? ;)