New Delhi, Apr 30: Ahead of its presidential election, the Namibian government has purchased 3,400 India-made electronic voting machines (EVMs) which have already been used by other countries in Asia to conduct smooth and fair polls.
Purchased at a cost of Namibian $10 million (Rs.57,17 mn/approx $948,000) from Bangalore-based public sector unit, Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL), the EVMs will be used in the southern African nation for their elections scheduled for November, top officials told IANS.
Namibia, which had ordered 1,700 EVMs in 2013, placed another order earlier this year, is the first African country to use such machines in any of its polls.
Officials said a seven-member delegation from the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) had visited various polling stations in Karnataka including its capital, Bangalore, when the Lok Sabha polls were held April 17 and were impressed by the system.
Speaking to IANS, Namibian High Commissioner Pius Dunaiski said: “In the entire Asian region, India is of pivotal importance for us. It’s developing technologies and the high advanced EVMs are a great learning point for us.
“Namibia had sent a few members from the information technology team to familiarise themselves with the functioning of the EVMs.
“A delegation will soon visit New Delhi to understand the vote counting process, including the software which is used at result centres during the announcement of results,” Dunaiski told IANS.
The envoy stressed that the main reason Namibia is keen on purchasing the Indian made EVMs lies in its benefits like faster results, reduction in the number of spoilt ballots, low expenses in conducting the polls, and the elimination of potential avenues of manipulation avenues.
“Newly introduced features like the None of the Above (NOTA) button in order to vote against all the contesting candidates in a constituency, in-built clocks and Braille markings for the visually impaired, are some other reasons that have drawn the officials of the Namibia’s Electoral Commission,” Dunaiski said.
Some other features of EVMs that impressed the commission was that they eliminated the possibility of vote tempering by displaying the time when the vote was cast along with recording the ballot. It also gives hourly polling updates.
A senior official from BEL told IANS that India’s EVMs are “more advanced” than those in the west.
“Our EVMs are more advanced as compared to those used in western nations. The EVMs we manufacture can adopt to any electoral process. Our machines are time savy, environment friendly and mobile,” he said.
“These are the reasons why the Namibian government has ordered our EVMs,” he added.
The company, which is six decades old, has provided 8.5 lakh new EVMs to the Election Commission for the ongoing Lok Sabha poll.
Earlier, it had also provided over 3,000 such machines to Bhutan for conducting their polls.
“While the EVMs have already been supplied, their technology won’t be shared with any of the countries,” the official categorically told IANS.
“We are always ready to extend help to other countries in their electoral process, but we can’t share the technology. After all, it is our technology which makes India a leader in conducting smooth polls, despite being the biggest democracy and highly prone to hassles during the electoral process,” he added.
But Namibia is not the only African country who want EVMs.
Impressed by smooth, hassle-free elections they ensure, officials said other countries have also shown interest in purchasing them.
“Other African countries like Ghana, South Sudan, Nigeria and Kenya have also shown interest in the purchase of the EVMs, but every thing will depend on the success of these machines in the Namibian presidential polls,” K.N. Bhar, secretary, Election Commission told IANS.
“The delegation has been given a thorough training by the Election Commission regarding the proper usage and operation of the EVMs,” he said.
Although various technologies have been used to automate certain processes in the electoral systems, as of now, no African country has made use of actual EVMs in its election process.
Biometric systems were introduced during the 2013 Kenya polls to streamline the voter registration process, while electronic tallying was used to expedite the counting and tallying process.
According to reports, due to operational and technical problems, both systems failed, forcing the electoral management body to resort to hand counting — a process that took five days, and threatened to destabilise the entire electoral process.