Making numbers count
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The higher turnout in these state polls is in line with a general trend, both in India and across certain regions of the world. Today, 23 countries even have compulsory voting laws, including Belgium, Singapore, Uruguay, the Philippines, Mexico, Ecuador and Australia.
Voter turnout in the United States, however, is lower than in most other countries, despite the country's historical tradition of free expression.
The turnout in the 2009 Lok Sabha election was 58.8 per cent, more or less similar to turnouts in the seven national elections between 1989 and 2009. The 2014 general elections are expected to see a surge in voter numbers though.
On March 9, 2013, the citizens of Malta cast their ballots for their national parliament and local governments. The elections were conducted using the single transferable vote (STV) system. Although Malta uses STV, it has a very rigid two-party system since 1971. The country, with a population of more than 400,000 people, is the smallest and one of the most successful economies in the Eurozone. Turnout was about 93 per cent, sky high in any other country but fairly low by Maltese standards. The 2013 turnout was the lowest since 1971. It was a massive landslide for the opposition Labour Party, which won the popular vote by 11.5 per cent and with a 35,000-vote margin over the governing Nationalist Party (NP). In the 2008 elections, the NP had won with a margin of only 1,000 votes out of nearly 300,000 votes.
In January 2013, Israelis voted in unexpectedly large numbers. Voter turnout was initially reported at 68 per cent of Israel's 5.6 million eligible voters, but the figure turned out to actually be 73 per cent — the highest turnout since 1999. Many observers were surprised as they had predicted a lower turnout than that in the last election in 2009, where 64.7 of eligible voters participated. But it was sunshine and unusually high temperatures that brought citizens to the polling booths. Yair Lapid's party Yesh Atid (There is a Future) which was in the running for the first time, got 19 seats in the 120-seat parliament. Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-Beitenu won 31.