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World’s Largest Democratic Election!

April 8th, 2014

A first time voter displays his pass as he waits in line to vote in India. Photo credit: AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

The world’s largest democratic election is happening in India right now.

814 million of India’s 1.2 billion citizens are in the process of voting for their prime minister — the leader of India.

China’s population is a bit bigger with about 1.35 billion people, but it’s not a democracy. The world’s total population is 7 billion people.

Organizing the world’s largest exercise in democracy is a staggering undertaking. India is a huge country with many rural areas (rural means not in cities); there are many languages, and there’s still a high level of illiteracy. It will take 5 weeks to get eligible voters through polling stations and counted!

Voting started on Monday in the northeastern part of India. The winner will be announced in the middle of May.

Despite the magnitude of the task, India is good at running elections. It has been a democracy since around the time it became independent from Britain in 1947. Elections are held every 5 years.

And they aren’t just going through the motions. “It’s a festival of democracy. It’s colorful, people love the elections. And they come out in huge numbers,” Professor Elliott Tepper, an International Affairs expert at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, explained to HTE.

India is a democracy in that a leader is elected. But unlike in the presidential system in the United States, India has a parliamentary system of government.

What does that mean? In a nutshell, in parliamentary elections, the prime minister is actually chosen by the political party whose candidates won their elections around the country. India has a president as well, but the prime minister is the most powerful person.

The candidate favored to win is Narendra Modi, the leader of the B.J.P. party.

Observers say he a strong record for growing the economy in one region of India and the hope is that he’ll be able to bring that success to a national scale. There’s a lot more to it than that of course, but the economy is a big issue in this election. India’s economy had grown under the current government, the Congress Party led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but many say it’s been faltering and that it may be time for a change.

Time will tell — 5 more weeks!

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