Regional Conference on the “Use of Money in Politics and Effects on People’s Representation”

Regional Conference on the “Use of Money in Politics and Effects on People’s Representation” 
Dr. Nasim Zaidi, Chief Election Commissioner of India, inaugurated a two-day “Regional Conference on the Use of Money in Politics and Effects on People’s Representation” at The Royal Plaza Hotel, New Delhi, on 15th and 16th December 2015, organised by ‘ the India International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Management' (IIIDEM), the training Division of the Election Commission of India and International IDEA. The conference is being attended by stakeholders like representatives of political parties namely, BJP, INC, CPI, Civil Society Organisations, representatives of election management bodies of South Asia, former Chief Election Commissioners namely Mr. Navin Chawla, Dr. S.Y. Quraishi, Mr. V.S Sampath, Mr. H.S. Brahma and Secretary General of International IDEA Mr. Yves Leterme. 

Dr. Nasim Zaidi, Hon’ble Chief Election Commissioner of India, in his inaugural speech highlighted the four basic requirements, namely, the requirement of filing of financial statements by the Parties /candidates, verification of the same by an authority, Disclosure of information and enforcement of the same. Dr Zaidi discussed in detail regarding the political finance regulations followed in India, including the guidelines/ regulations prescribed by the Election Commission of India in areas which lacked legal framework, by utilising the plenary powers available with the Commission. Transparency guidelines and guidelines for Electoral Trusts have been issued by the ECI in the year 2014, for bringing greater transparency in the field of political finance. He expressed satisfaction that all National political parties have filed their Annual Audited accounts with Election Commission of India, in compliance of the transparency guidelines issued by ECI. Dr Zaidi informed about some other initiatives taken by the ECI such as capacity building of the political parties, campaign for ethical voting and the Election Commission Return Preparer Scheme for assisting candidates in e filing. Dr Zaidi highlighted the achievements made by India and at the same time stressed that it is high time that the recommendations made by the ECI and Law Commission on the electoral reforms are taken further. He stated that all stakeholders including the political parties should come forward.

Mr. Yves Leterme, the Secretary General of International IDEA and former Prime Minister of Belgium in his welcome speech highlighted the negative Influence of money over politics and discussed on the most pressing challenges in the area and suggested concrete steps as practical solutions.

Mr. Leterme informed the participants about the series of conferences organised by Intl IDEA on money in politics starting in Paris in December 2014, Brazil in May 2015 and Mexico in September 2015. International IDEA has been focussing on the issue for over 15 years. The most pressing challenges in Asia are identified as overall rising cost of running election campaign, compounded by absence of public funding resulting in uneven political participation. Secondly, there is a threat of abuse of state resources by the incumbent party and wealthy financial supporters being given favours. There is also limited financial support for women in politics. Politics has become interest driven and corrupt.

Mr Sanjay V Gathia, Special Rapporteur presented the report on the 2015 Asian- African Practioners' Meeting on Political Finance Regulation and Corruption Eradication. He discussed on the various dimensions and findings connected with the topic along with suggested measures.

Former Chief Election Commissioner Dr. S.Y. Quraishi gave an overview of the focus areas discussed in the previous three conferences organised by International IDEA at Paris, Brazil and Mexico as well as FEMBoSA conference held at Kathmandu in November 2014. After discussing the salient points, Dr Quraishi suggested that the debate needs to be taken forward to evolve and build consensus on state funding of elections in India.

This next Session was chaired by Hon’ble Election Commissioner Mr. A.K. Joti and the speakers were Dr. Magnus Ohman, Senior Advisor on Political Finance, IFES, Prof. Arun Kumar,( Retired) from the Centre for Economic studies and Planning School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, Hon’ble Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, former Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan and Mr. Navin Chawla, Former Chief Election Commissioner of India, who deliberated on ways to reduce cost of electoral politics.

The speakers highlighted the growing cost of electoral politics and discussed the suggested measures including partial and indirect Public Funding of elections.

Another session was co-chaired by Ms. Leena Rikkila tamang, Regional Director, Asia and the Pacific International IDEA and Mr. H.S. Brahma, Former Chief Election Commissioner of India and the speakers of the session included Mr. P.K. Dash, additional secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India and Former Director General (Election Expenditure Monitoring) , Election Commission of India; Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), Pakistan and Mr. Samuel Jones, Programme Officer, International IDEA, who dwelt on the various aspect of requirement of transparency of funding and expenditure , including the challenges, required measures and digital solutions for transparency.

Mr. Ayodhee Prasad Yadav, officiating Chief Election Commissioner of Nepal and Chair of Forum of EMBs in South Asia (Fembosa) chaired a session where Dr. S.Y. Quraishi, Former Chief Election Commissioner of India and Dr. E. Sridharan, Academic Director, University of Pennsylvania Institute of Advanced Study of India discussed on Regional efforts to counter adverse effects of Money in Politics. 

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