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India's Elections: Transparency May Have Been on the March, But Voters Weren't

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, May 7 2009

A quick check in on what's happening on the online front when it comes to the Indian parliamentary elections. Vote Report India and other online transparency projects have gotten a good deal of positive press attention, it seems. The Vote Report India blog mentions TV spots on Channel France 24 and newspaper coverage within India, in the Middle East, and elsewhere. Looking on from 7,000 miles away, though, it's tough to know just how successful Vote Report India has proven without knowing more about the context and contours of the country and its political scene. That said, as the U.S. version of Vote Report did as well, Vote Report India has succeeded in capturing the craziness and color of the election process. One report from Delhi has the chief voting official there not listed on the voter rolls. Another from the Punjabi city of Ludhiana tells the strange case of what's effectively moonshine flowing freely in the days of the election -- so much so that the bootleggers have to switch from using water to making use of, ehem, other fluids. Anyhoo, transparency is one thing. Participation is another. And while the Indian elections this go round may have experienced a new degree of wired transparency, it wasn't coupled with a renewed vigor in participation. Over on Global Voices, Vote Report India lead Gaurav Mishra explores why his project ran alongside an actual decrease in voter turnout in Mumbai. (Vote Report India poster by The Comic Project)