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The Big Picture – Gujarat’s compulsory voting model: Can it work?

The Big Picture – Gujarat’s compulsory voting model: Can it work?

Summary:

  • The Gujarat government has notified an act which makes voting compulsory by the citizens for local self- government elections.
  • This act which was passed in 2009 was rejected by the then Gujarat governor. This had forced the government to pass it again.
  • The purpose of this act is to bring the citizens to the centre stage of politics and to increase the voting percentage.
  • Very low percentage of voter turnout in many parts of the country is one reason for the enactment of this act.
  • Compulsory voting, at present, is prevalent in 22 countries across the world, while it is enforced in 11 out of these 22 countries. They include countries like Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore among others.
  • This issue has been coming before the election commission and the commission had been rejecting the demand. The reason for rejection, according to Election Commission, is that the right to vote includes the right not to vote and therefore in democracy, compulsion is out of place.
  • Critics argue that Voter education program has increased the voting percentage tremendously and that needs to be perceived instead of making it compulsory.
  • The freedom of speech includes the freedom not to speak.
  • This move is also being seen as unconstitutional and impractical measure. It represents illiberal approach to democracy.
  • The fundamental rights give greater freedom to people in making right decisions.
  • Democracy is essentially something about choice. In democracy if people are forced to do something then it goes against the basic tenets of the democracy.
  • The political system is political party centric. Political party should function democratically.
  • There is less voter turnout because people have less choice in selecting.
  • NOTA option is not available in local elections yet.
  • In the NOTA judgement Supreme Court had said that the right not to vote is a part of right to express which can be enforced and it has been declared as a fundamental right.