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The Influence Of A Biased Election Commission On Democracy

The foundation of democracy rests on the impartiality and integrity of its electoral processes. The Election Commission holds a crucial role in maintaining this integrity by overseeing elections and upholding democratic principles. However, a biased or partisan Election Commission undermines the very essence of democracy.

This essay examines the profound consequences of a biased Election Commission on democratic processes, focusing on its impact on electoral fairness, public trust, and the health of democratic institutions.

The Significance of Electoral Integrity:

Electoral integrity is essential for the legitimacy of democratic governance. It ensures that elections are conducted fairly, transparently, and with respect for citizens' right to express their will. A neutral and impartial Election Commission is vital for upholding these principles, protecting democracy from electoral misconduct.

The Role of the Election Commission:

The Election Commission supervises all aspects of the electoral process, including voter registration, candidate nominations, campaigning, poll violence, hate campaign, misinformation, corrupt practices, polling, and vote counting. Its mandate extends beyond administrative functions to ensuring a level playing field for all political entities, preventing fraud, and safeguarding voters' rights.

The Influence of Bias on Electoral Fairness:

When the Election Commission exhibits partiality or partisanship, it undermines the fairness and integrity of elections. Biased decisions concerning voter registration, candidate eligibility, campaigning, corrupt practices, violence, administrative management, or polling procedures can skew electoral outcomes, favoring specific political actors while disenfranchising others. This erodes the principle of equal participation and undermines the credibility of election results.

The Manipulation of Electoral Rules:

A biased Election Commission may manipulate electoral rules and regulations to benefit a particular political party or the incumbent government.
  • Redrawing electoral boundaries to favor one party
  • Appointing pliable and spineless individuals as the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners
  • Disregarding court orders for free and fair elections
  • Remaining silent during the arrest of opposition party leaders
  • Imposing restrictive voter ID laws to suppress turnout among certain demographic groups
  • Inaction on booth jamming
  • Misusing government machinery and security forces to intimidate voters from certain groups, preventing them from voting
  • Inaction on hate speech by leaders of the ruling party
  • Delays in counting
  • Fraud during counting
  • Inaction on complaints about the prevention of voting by members of certain groups
  • Delays in the declaration of results
  • Failure to ensure voting by all sections of society
  • Inaction on violence perpetrated by the ruling parties
  • Inaction on the slowing down of the counting process at counting centers
  • Hyperactivity on complaints against opposition parties
  • Inaction on harassment of members of certain groups by checking their documents at election booths to prevent them from voting
  • Inactivity on complaints against the leaders of ruling parties
  • Bias in the transfer and posting of civil and police officers during the election period, acting mostly on complaints from leaders of the ruling parties
  • Selectively enforcing campaign finance rules to disadvantage opposition candidates
Such manipulation distorts the electoral playing field and tilts the odds in favor of established power structures.

The Erosion of Public Trust:

The perception of impartiality and integrity is crucial for maintaining public trust in the electoral process. When the Election Commission is perceived as biased or compromised, it undermines confidence in the legitimacy of election outcomes. This erosion of trust can lead to public disillusionment with the democratic system, fueling cynicism, apathy, and disengagement from political participation.

Undermining Democratic Institutions:

A biased Election Commission compromises electoral fairness and damages the broader democratic framework. It undermines trust in democratic institutions, weakening the foundation of democracy. This can trigger a downward spiral of political instability, social unrest, and authoritarian tendencies, exacerbating governance issues and diminishing the rule of law.

Case Studies:
Global examples demonstrate the detrimental impact of biased Election Commissions on democracy. From accusations of electoral manipulation in authoritarian regimes to concerns about partisan bias in established democracies, compromised electoral integrity highlights the pervasive threat of institutionalized bias.

Addressing the Challenge:

Countering the influence of biased Election Commissions necessitates strengthening democratic institutions, fostering transparency, and upholding the rule of law. Measures such as guaranteeing the independence of Election Commissions, enhancing electoral monitoring and oversight mechanisms, and empowering citizens through civic education and voter engagement are crucial for protecting electoral integrity and safeguarding democratic principles. The role of independent judicial machinery is very important to ensure the independence and neutrality of the Election Commission.

In the 2020 presidential election in Country X, the Election Commission faced accusations of partiality and partisan influence, sparking concerns about the integrity of the electoral process. The Commission, predominantly composed of appointees loyal to the incumbent president, was charged with implementing policies and rules favoring the ruling party while stifling opposition voices.

Examples of this alleged favoritism included the arbitrary disqualification of opposition candidates, the manipulation of voter registration lists to exclude certain demographics deemed unfavorable to the ruling party, and the selective enforcement of campaign finance laws that disproportionately impacted opposition campaigns. Furthermore, the Commission imposed restrictive voting procedures, such as reducing the number of polling stations in opposition strongholds and deploying security forces to intimidate voters.

The biased actions of the Election Commission eroded public trust in the electoral process and fueled allegations of electoral fraud and manipulation. Mass protests ensued, demanding the resignation of Commission officials and calling for electoral reforms to ensure fairness and transparency in future elections. The case of Country X serves as a stark reminder of the risks associated with a politicized Election Commission and emphasizes the importance of maintaining impartiality and integrity in electoral administration to safeguard democracy.

Example of a Biased Election Commission:

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is an example of a biased election commission, which has been accused of being biased and lacking independence, especially during elections held under former President Robert Mugabe's rule.

During Mugabe's time in office, the ZEC was accused of favoring the ruling party, ZANU-PF, and using unfair practices to undermine the fairness of elections. There were reports of voter intimidation, problems with voter registration, changes to electoral boundaries to help ZANU-PF, and opposition parties having trouble getting access to the media.

In the 2008 presidential election, the ZEC was criticized for taking too long to release the results and for accusations of vote-rigging in Mugabe's favor. The runoff election that followed was marked by violence and intimidation, which led to international condemnation and calls for changes to the electoral system.

Despite attempts to fix these problems in later elections, there are still concerns about whether the ZEC is impartial, with accusations that it favors the ruling party and makes it hard for opposition parties to compete fairly. Zimbabwe shows how hard it is to make sure elections are fair when election commissions are not independent.

The impact of a prejudiced Election Commission on democracy cannot be underestimated. By manipulating electoral procedures, diminishing public trust, and weakening democratic institutions, biased electoral authorities pose a severe danger to the core of democracy. Maintaining the impartiality and fairness of the Election Commission is crucial for guaranteeing free, fair, and credible elections that embody the will of the people and uphold democratic principles.

It is only through collective vigilance and dedication to democratic values that we can safeguard the integrity of electoral processes and preserve the vitality of democratic governance. The role of an independent and proactive judiciary is very important in ensuring the independence and neutrality of the Election Commission by preventing administrative interference and control in the selection of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners and its day to day administration.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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