Registration of Electors: Overlapping Responsibilities and Ambiguities


By Jan Arden

Lest last piece suggesting that the Electoral Commission investigates and reports on the missing electors of 2019 be construed as an uninformed criticism of the Office of the Electoral Commission, it is necessary to clarify that the “Commission” referred to should more properly be the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC). The brief extract below of Article 41 of our constitution makes the relationship clear: The Electoral Commissioner’s Office is headed by the Electoral Commissioner, whose office is a public one, appointed by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission and his independence guaranteed by Article 40, while the ESC (whose members also sit on the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) has been accused of being packed with appointees suspected of close affinities with the ruling regime.

41 Functions of Electoral Supervisory Commission and Electoral Commissioner

(1) The Electoral Supervisory Commission shall have general responsibility for, and shall supervise, the registration of electors for the election of members of the Assembly and the conduct of elections of such members and the Commission shall have such powers and other functions relating to such registration and such elections as may be prescribed.

(2) The Electoral Commissioner shall have such powers and other functions relating to such registration and elections as may be prescribed, and he shall keep the Electoral Supervisory Commission fully informed concerning the exercise of his functions and shall have the right to attend meetings of the Commission and to refer to the Commission for their advice or decision any question relating to his functions.

It is also noted that in the more detailed, legally and procedurally important Representation of People’s Act, Section 3 on the responsibilities of the Electoral Commissioner and his Deputy states:

The Electoral Commissioner shall have all the powers of the registration officer and of the returning officer in an electoral area.

Overlapping responsibilities between the Electoral Commissioner and the Electoral Supervisory Commission may obviously lead to a frustrating situation. However, the questions regarding the fluctuations in the electoral register, which have been noted and questioned in the past, remain. Although we recognise that there may be some factors why electors do not bother registering themselves particularly in non-election years, the raw data and historical trends are at least publicly available on the Electoral Commission’s website, whereas the Electoral Supervisory Commission remains in the shadows, its membership not forthcoming and we somehow doubt that it would come forward with some explanations of any troubling trends. And we trust that the overlapping ambiguities will be reviewed and the ability for a political party to jam-pack both the ESC and the EBC with political appointees curtailed.

* * *

India and Canada ties

With total trade between these two countries standing at some US$ 7 billion in 2021 and less than 4 billion in the services sector, Canada is far from representing a meaningful economic partner for India, lagging well behind such countries as Malaysia, Vietnam, or Italy in the list of top 25 major trade partners of India.

India and Canada have traditionally a longstanding bilateral relationship based on shared democratic values, facilitated by the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature of two societies and strong people-to-people contacts. This rather poor figure of total trade is an oddity which both countries have been rather keen to address, most notably through negotiations towards a free-trade pact which was due for finalisation during 2023. Inexplicably and without much explanation to its citizens, its state governors or its economic operators, PM Trudeau called for a “pause” in the negotiations a month before hopping on his Airbus plane for the G20 summit in New Delhi.

In the august setting of that gathering of top world leaders and institutions, as in previous G7 summits, Trudeau was seen as a very isolated figure snubbed by his major peers. He had a visibly uncomfortable finger-wagging lecture by US President Joe Biden and was even “scolded” in a terse talk by PM Modi gunning him down for the particularly unappetising free rein given to what India says are terrorists spreading violent hate under the khalistani banner. The G20 trip therefore did not go down very well to say the least, with Trudeau so snubbed that he gave the Bharat President’s gala dinner a miss and his old plane left him stranded in New Delhi for two extra days through technical faults.

In contrast, UK PM Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy, very skillfully and without fuss, exploited the glamorous opportunity to demonstrate their unabashed connect with their Indian roots, At a time the UK is also engaging India in a free trade deal, Rishi Sunak was far more astute in condemning unequivocally any activities of the K-movement in the UK and thanking PM Modi for a “historic” G20 summit with its largely unexpected joint declaration of all participants.

One wonders what Justin Trudeau’s lonely figure expected to achieve at the G20 summit where India successfully managed to keep geopolitics (Ukraine-Russia conflict and other international hot spots) out of a grouping whose focus is on economic development issues for the planet. Perhaps it was meant as a sop for those excited k-mobs around Vancouver and their continued support as his particular standing in the polls deteriorates. The Canadian Opposition and netizens gave him a full-fledged roasting for having isolated Canada’s voice from all major fora, seriously constraining its economic development opportunities.

As for Indian netizens, several wise-cracked about the utter hypocrisy of the guy for his unprecedented decision to use the Emergencies Act in February 2022 to suspend civil liberties and suppress Canadian trucker protests. “It’s high time that these illegal and dangerous activities stop” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had declared in the Canadian Parliament. On 27th November 2022, a The Spectator article asked, “How did Trudeau come to the conclusion that the honking horns, blocked traffic, bouncy castles, and dancing in the streets of the protests met the definition of a public emergency?” Indian netizens and news channels had a field day with Trudeau’s self-professed attachment for “free speech” and “peaceful manifestations”, some quipping that Trudeau might consider granting the creation of a K-state around Vancouver and liberate Quebec from Canadian rule!

It is worth adding that Trudeau’s minority government is being propped up by the New Democratic Party, led by Jagmeet Singh, in an agreement that could keep the Liberals in power until 2025. The Opposition Conservatives have elected a new leader Pierre Poilievre in a resounding victory, but the latter has still to make his mark. Indian and Canadian trade in goods and services may therefore continue to stagnate, much to the chagrin of Canadian farmers and grain exporters, while India has numerous alternatives queuing up for trade, investment and mutual development which would happily pick up any Canadian slack.

* * *

The Mega corridor: “real big deal”

On February 22, 2023, at a G20 Finance Ministers meeting in Bengaluru, the IMF head Kristalina Georgieva had publicly aired this view: “…beyond its role as a global growth engine, India is uniquely positioned to bring countries together. In a world facing multiple challenges and rising geopolitical tensions, this leadership is critical — and beautifully captured in the theme of India’s G20 presidency: One Earth, One Family, One Future.”

The two-day New Delhi G20 summit has indeed concluded with the torch transferred to President Lula of Brazil. Meantime India has ensured that the organisation will never be the same again as PM Modi pushed for and secured the full permanent membership of the African Union and came out as a strong respected voice for the global south in those spheres that dominate world economies.

One path-breaking initiative for India and the developing world announced at an event co-chaired by President Biden, is the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), which is a proposed ambitious mixed Sea and Rail corridor joining India with Europe (Italy, Greece and France) through the main countries of the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and even Israel). Trade and people connectivity through this massive physical, social and digital infrastructure of quality looks likely to give a massive boost to future economic opportunities in a people-centered philosophy. A high-speed data cable and an energy pipeline will parallel the rail tracks.

This mega economic corridor is the “real big deal”, said President Joe Biden, adding that it would link up with what the EU has been working on: a pan-African rail corridor extending north from Angola. Japan and international institutions seem ready to extend their support. We can only wish that those noble intentions from so many quarters are translated into action within the shortest feasible time.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 15 September 2023

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