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India needs fair elections and a strong defence of the democratic process. It needs another T.N. Seshan

“I am like a ball. The more you kick me, the more I will bounce back.” – T.N. Seshan, former Chief Election Commissioner.

India needs fair elections and a strong defence of the democratic process. It needs another T.N. Seshan

“I am like a ball. The more you kick me, the more I will bounce back.” – T.N. Seshan, former Chief Election Commissioner.

India needs fair elections and a strong defence of the democratic process. It needs another T.N. Seshan

“I am like a ball. The more you kick me, the more I will bounce back.” – T.N. Seshan, former Chief Election Commissioner.

India needs fair elections and a strong defence of the democratic process. It needs another T.N. Seshan

“I am like a ball. The more you kick me, the more I will bounce back.” – T.N. Seshan, former Chief Election Commissioner.

Democracy is fragile, particularly in India.

The electoral process is at the heart of democracy. Yet take a moment to imagine just how complex it is to organise an election in a country like India, with a population of well over one billion – particularly when around a quarter of the adult population is illiterate. The process of ensuring that everyone with the right to vote is registered to do so, and that they are aware of when and how to cast their vote, is a huge task in itself.

Beyond that lies an even greater challenge: ensuring that elections are free and fair, and that there can be no question of the final result. There must be a watertight system in place, with impartial electoral observers and institutions on hand to confirm that the process is above board.

Even in the USA, such a system can come close to breaking point under pressure from a candidate who refuses to accept defeat. At the beginning of this year the world watched as Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol building, spurred on by their leader’s rejection of the election results. For a moment, violence threatened to overwhelm democracy.

Thankfully the system held, as it was proved beyond doubt that votes had been counted correctly. Most of Trump’s own party agreed that he had gone too far: democracy itself must always come first, even if the votes don’t go in your favour.

Yet the episode in Washington DC exposed the fragility of democracy worldwide. It is not something we can take for granted.

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