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Online voting for better turnout

January 03, 2013

ACCORDING to voter statistics released by the Election Commission of Pakistan, 40 million voters are aged between 18 and 35, which accounts for 47 per cent out of 84.30 million total voters on the electoral rolls.

In the conventional method of polling, finding the correct polling location and standing in line for hours decrease voter participation.

The current security situation in the country further discourages people to cast their vote. Especially the youth is disheartened by this process of exercising their constitutional right to cast vote. No one can undermine the importance of the youth, so the ECP should take measures to facilitate a dynamic and educated Pakistani youth to participate in this democratic process.

Pakistan stands on top in the region in terms of the Internet penetration. In Pakistan, about 16 per cent of population use the Internet against 12 per cent in India and five per cent in Bangladesh. Most of the Internet users in Pakistan are its youths. Like postal ballot, the ECP may introduce Internet voting in the upcoming general elections. The Internet voting system can work like the already established postal ballot.

The voters who wish to cast their vote through the Internet can request the ECP well before the polling day.

The ECP can issue an account name and password for each such voter. The ECP can eliminate the names of those voters from voter lists to avoid duplicate voting.

This procedure is simpler than VOI and the cost-intensive DRE voting system in Europe and the US.

Furthermore, it is more transparent and secure due to the central database. By introducing Internet voting the youths can be cheered to cast their vote and it will also improve the polling turnout.


Reporters’ training

ACCORDING to the media, the ECP is doing its utmost to make the elections free, fair and transparent.

Political parties also have come into some momentum to have popular vote.

However, one thing is still conspicuously missing in such election preparation. That is the training of journalists for election reporting.

The nature of election reporting, particularly in Pakistan, is different from the reporting of other issues. It has some different dimensions like feudalism in rural areas and ideologue media owners and journalists.

Hence, there is a possibility that the election could be influenced by feudal lords in rural parts when local journalists would not be able to sustain pressures, threats and lucrative offers by local landlords.

The ideologue media owners and journalists as well may influence the election by slanted reporting.

Therefore, to assess the transparency of the forthcoming elections there is a need to train journalists for election reporting.

In this regard the Election Commission of Pakistan, political parties and other stakeholders, who wish to see stable democracy in Pakistan, need to make a combined effort.

That effort can ensure a fair role of the media during the election.

One of the steps the stakeholders should take is to hire a contingent of journalistic workforce and then train it how to report elections.

For this purpose, all stakeholders, including the government and media organizations, should pool together some funds. Then journalism educators and senior journalists in Pakistan and abroad should be hired to train that journalistic workforce.

And the most suitable journalistic workforce to be recruited for election reporting can be fresh journalism and mass communication graduates in Pakistan as they can be hardly influenced by owners of media organisations and feudal lords. They must be equipped with knowledge of media laws and ethics to report with responsibly and sensibly.

BASHIR MEMON Assistant Professor Mass Communication University of Sindh Jamshoro