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Thursday, February 12, 1998 Published at 06:37 GMT

image: [ BBC Despatches ]Alastair Lawson

The Election Commission in India has launched a series of newspaper and television advertisements as part of its on-going campaign to encourage Indians to vote in the forthcoming elections, which begin on Monday. However, most analysts don't expect the turnout to be higher than the 58% of the electorate who participated in the last election in 1996. As Alastair Lawson reports from Delhi, there are signs that the Election Commission is fighting a losing battle against voter apathy:

In India, the world's largest democracy, there seems to be a growing sense of boredom and disillusionment with politics. Voter turnout in general elections has decreased since 64% of the electorate took part in the vote of 1984.

This year the incentive to vote may be further diminished by the fact that there's been a drop by nearly two thirds in the number of candidates competing for seats in parliament. That's principally because there has been an increase in the deposit candidates are made to pay.

In India, the number of people eligible to vote is over 600m people. If recent voting patterns continue, that means that around 250m people -- roughly the size of the population of the United States -- will not take part in this year's election.

The Election Commission is doing its utmost to combat this. It has launched a television and newspaper campaign to encourage people to vote.

The adverts say that Indians must cast their vote, because it's their duty to the nation. As an additional incentive the Commission has directed state governments to declare a public holiday when voting takes place in the elections, on different days in February and March.

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