Thursday, December 13, 2012

Credible elections to find durable peace

Sri Lanka is looking forward to a more fair and legitimate
voting process (Image Wikipedia)
Although the possibility to register votes by electronic means has been around for a few decades, automated voting is part of a young industry, in which not all providers have proficient technology, and clients (electoral commissions) still have a lot of learning to do in terms of technology adoption. Previous poor implementations in countries such as Germany, Ireland or the United States generated animosity in the eyes of public opinion, and prevented citizens from benefiting from the many advantages e-voting has to offer.

Fortunately, experiences in countries such as India, Venezuela, and Brazil which started automating elections decades ago, and more recent success stories in the Philippines, Mongolia, and Estonia, are shedding some light on this nascent industry.

Sri Lanka, is one of those nations looking at the positive experiences India has had with electronic voting in order to implement it and achieve legitimate results which are trusted by all parties involved. After the debated reelection of President Percy Mahndra Rajapaksa in 2010, election automation became an evident necessity. A Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission questioned the credibility of the election stating ''very clearly, the question as to whether Sri Lanka is any longer capable of conducting a free and fair election has been raised in this election,'' (…) ''It is not only the electoral process that is under challenge. The very process of receiving, preserving and counting the ballot at the commissioner's office itself is an issue that has been prominently raised.''

In spite these recent scandals, this young nation seems to have given a crucial step towards better electoral processes as the government showed the political will to use technology to improve the transparency of the electoral roll. Now, according to the Chief Government Whip Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, it is ready to further advance in that direction. "New legislation has to be enacted for an open elector registration system to be established. Copies of the computerized register of voters, on compact disks, are already being made available to recognized political parties on the request of secretaries of political parties," he said.
According to Mr. Gunawardena, Sri Lanka is looking closely at India's experience in electronic voting. As the northern Indian neighbors Nepal and Pakistan did, this young nation will seek advice from one of the pioneers in e-voting.

Only three years ago, the armed forces of Sri Lanka were still fighting separatist movements. Throughout time, experience has proven that the most effective means to settle differences are legitimate elections. Hopefully, the legal frame will be arranged within a reasonable time frame so the nation can automate its electoral process and execute credible elections which will lead to everlasting peace.