India. Indians vote in sweltering heat: abstentions on the rise?

The second phase of India's general election begins on Friday with millions of voters expected to turn out at polling stations in parts of the country where the weather is particularly hot. Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi is almost certain – in the face of a struggling opposition – of winning the six-week extended election.

The number of voters participating in last week's first phase of the election fell nearly four points, to 66%, compared to the 2019 election, and Indian media blamed the drop on higher-than-average temperatures. Shortly before polling stations reopened, Narendra Modi urged voters to turn out in “record-breaking numbers”. “High voter turnout strengthens our democracy,” he wrote on the social network X. “Your vote is your vote!” »


The second phase of voting, which has seven stages to ease logistics for the election of the world's most populous country, took place in a region that this week experienced temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius. According to the Indian Meteorological Agency on Thursday, an intense heat wave is expected throughout the weekend in several states including the eastern state of Bihar, where five districts will go to the polls on Friday.

Temperatures more than 5.1 degrees Celsius above the seasonal average were recorded there this week. The states of Karnataka (south) and parts of Uttar Pradesh (north), India's most populous states and the heartland of Hinduism, are also expected to go to the polls amid the heat wave.

The authorities want to reassure

Earlier this week, India's Election Commission said it had set up a task force to assess the impact of heat waves and humidity ahead of each phase of voting. According to The Hindu daily, this decision could have been taken because “heat wave conditions could lead to a decline in election participation”.

In a press release issued Monday, the commission indicated that it had “no major concerns” regarding the consequences of high temperatures on Friday's vote, while assuring that it was closely monitoring weather reports before claiming to ensure “comfort and well-being.” become voters and election staff.”

An extraordinary heat wave hit South and Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines and Bangladesh where thousands of schools canceled classes.

Serena Hoyles

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