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An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election


On September 23, 2014, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) hosted a conversation between IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney and the former Chief Election Commissioner of the Election Commission of India (ECI), S.Y. Quraishi. Sweeney and Quraishi discussed Quraishi’s book An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election, a first-person account of the recent electoral history of India and a must-read for those interested in understanding how the world's largest democracy works. Quraishi was also presented with the IFES’ prestigious Hutar Award, which honors those who express a commitment to improving democratic practices.

During the event, Sweeney marveled at the immense technical undertaking of elections in India, noting that as the Chief Electoral Commissioner of India, Quraishi oversaw elections that involved over 11 million Indian government personnel. Indeed, elections in India generate both wonder and interest globally. Polls have been held at regular intervals in the country since independence, and on an unprecedented scale, surmounting the massive challenges posed by the geography of the land and the diversity of the Indian populace.

IFES and the ECI have a history of cooperation in promoting democratic processes and good governance around the world. In 2012, the ECI and IFES signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to build on the existing partnership between the two organizations centered on dialogue and training in election management. Among other things, the MoU called for continued collaboration on developing an international training curriculum through the International Institute of Democracy and Election Management, which was established in 2011 to exchange best practices in election management. In 2013, President Sweeney and the current Chief Election Commissioner of India, V. S. Sampath, held a meeting in Washington to reaffirm cooperation between IFES and the ECI.

The IFES-ECI partnership draws on the ECI’s expertise in election management, technology implementation, and internal monitoring and evaluation practices, as well as IFES’ experience in international electoral processes and research.