India is steadily progressing towards the possibility of conducting simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, a concept known as ‘one nation, one election.’
This significant development was initiated by a committee, led by former President Ram Nath Kovind, was established to assess its feasibility.
Should India successfully implement this, it will join the ranks of just three other nations globally that conduct such synchronized elections.
Countries that Hold Simultaneous Elections
Currently, only three countries—Belgium, Sweden, and South Africa—conduct simultaneous elections.
Belgium and South Africa hold their federal and national elections simultaneously.
In this context, Sweden adds an interesting twist by also combining county and municipal council elections with their general elections every four years.
Sweden’s Simultaneous Election Model: All on the Same Day
Sweden holds simultaneous general elections for the Riksdag, regional or county council assemblies, and municipal councils every four years, typically in September.
This streamlining of the electoral process makes it easier for citizens to vote and participate in government.
Belgium’s Simultaneous Election
Belgium synchronizes its federal parliamentary elections with European elections every five years. This ensures that the country’s electoral schedule is aligned with its European commitments and that voters can cast their ballots for all of their representatives in one fell swoop.
Nepal’s Experience in Simultaneous Elections
Closer to India, Nepal experimented with simultaneous national and state elections in 2017. Although initially aiming for a one-day event, logistical challenges led to a two-phase election, with the first phase in November and the second in December.
A South African Simultaneous Elections Case Study
South Africa’s size and complexity make its electoral system unique. The country holds simultaneous provincial and national elections every five years, with nine provinces.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) manages the process, similar to India’s Election Commission. However, South Africa’s proportional representation system differs significantly from India’s.
Exploring the Feasibility of ‘One Nation, One Election’ in India
Rumors suggest that the Centre may introduce a bill on ‘One Nation, One Election’ during a special Parliament session scheduled from September 18 to 22.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated discussions on this concept shortly after his second term began in 2019.
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Despite the advantages, conducting simultaneous elections presents substantial logistical challenges, including the need for synchronized manpower deployment and increased electronic voting and paper audit trail machines.
Moreover, potential complications could arise if a state government collapses or dissolves before completing its five-year term, a scenario that has occurred in the past.
India’s Complex Electoral History
India’s first simultaneous elections were held in 1951-52. However, this practice was discontinued due to state restructuring and assembly dissolution.
In 1957, 76% of states held simultaneous elections, followed by 67% in 1962 and 1967. The trend broke in 1972, and only Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim now hold simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
The synchronized electoral cycle in India was disrupted in July 1959 when the Central government dismissed the Communist Party-led government in Kerala, headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad.
The idea of one nation, one election is not new in India. However, there are many challenges to implementing it, such as the need for a constitutional amendment and the high cost of elections. If India is able to overcome these challenges, it will set a unique example for the world’s largest democracy.