Creative Writing

The Last Hook

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  Elections are a time-bound exercise and their administrators need ability, agility and creativity in order to be able to respond to any unpredictable situation at any hour. If solutions are to be subjected to long procedural delays, they are bound to prove useless.The second most important area where the EC needs to be empowered is its control over the civil administration. It needs the services of an army of government employees to  perform duties at the polling station level. It needs to wean these seconded personnel off any political affiliations, guard them against threats of violence from vested interest groups, chec! any negligence on their part and ma!e them wor! efficiently. eveloping other sta!es in civil administration is important as peace and order in society are a prere#uisite for elections. The EC also needs the support of all government departments, including the law-enforcement agencies to ensure that the Code of Conduct for pre-election campaigns is strictly followed, that voters are not bribed or coerced, and that there is a level playing field for all contestants.The EC has not been able to ensure all of this to the satisfaction of the parties. $ne li!ely reason is that this area too is contested by two constitutional bodies, the EC and the careta!er government. They are both entrusted with the same responsibility of ensuring neutrality in government. This duplication not only creates confusion but also wor!s as a disincentive for the EC to ta!e the initiative, besides allowing the two to  blame failures on each other.Interim set-ups have traditionally served as a constitutional window for the establishment to intervene in the electoral process. The system of appointment was changed substantially through the %&th 'mendment but careta!er set-ups too have failed to meet expectations. The EC thus needs a new legal framewor! for its engagement with the civil administration. There is no harm in ta!ing a leaf from the Indian experience where no careta!ers are appointed and the election commission virtually ta!es over the entire state machinery, as soon as the election process begins and until the results are announced.The Electoral (eforms Committee will have to avoid indulging in rephrasing old laws and show some creativity. (eaders should be reminded that a!istan achieved an important milestone in its first-ever democratic transition, from one elected government to the next, in )*%+. The subse#uent milestone should not be the next transition but electoral reforms as only these can ta!e polls and democracy a #ualitative step forward. The writer works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group. Published in Dawn, July 2th, 2! # Comment Email rint   Comment Email 
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