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People Ensure Success of Local Election Phase Two

Monsoon rains and possible threats of violence did not deter public from casting votes in the second round of local level election held in Provinces 1, 5, and 7 of Nepal on Wednesday. People started queuing up in the voting line from early in the morning, even in the Terai districts where Madhesi parties had called for boycott of the polls. By the time polling stations closed, the Election Commission said, voter turn out was 70.5 per cent.

Due to the plantation season and possible confrontation with the parties that boycotted the polls, a low voter turnout was estimated. However, voters ignored possible threats and braved the rains to elect their representatives. Almost a dozen incidents of explosion and clashes were reported in a week ahead of the polling day, which was seen as a possible deterrence for voters. Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplab’ led Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) had also boycotted the polls. The party is suspected to have planted explosions in Madhes as well as hill districts.

The Election Commission, in its briefing, said that the voter turn out was 70.5 per cent. It is 2.5 per cent lower than the first phase of election. The first phase of election was held in the districts of Province 3, 4 and 6, which were relatively safe to hold the polls in. The government had decided to hold the election of province 1, 5 and 7 in second phase due to security reasons. Madhesi parties in the Tera districts have been demanding redrawal of provincial boundaries and gerrymandering of local units.

People Largely Defy Boycott

Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N), an alliance of six Madhes-based parties in particular, had appealed the public to boycott the polls. Based on today’s election participation, RJP-N’s move appears to have failed.

RJP-N, which has 25 seats in the parliament, is believed to have perceivable presence in Nawalparasi, Kapilvastu and Rupandehi districts only. The party has stronghold in Province 2, in which the election will be held in third phase on September.

Two major Madhes-based parties–Sanghiya Samajbadi Party and Nepal Democratic Forum—have participated in the polls, even if the demand of constitution amendment has not been met. Therefore, Madhesi voters were already divided on whether to boycott or participate in the polls.

People of Tilanga village of Solukhumbu district and Bhujahwa village of Nawalparasi, however, abstained from voting as they were unhappy with gerrymandering of local units.

High Security Presence

Considering the security threat, the Home Ministry had mobilised over 162,000 security personnel, of which 49,000 were Nepal Army personnel. It is the first time army was mobilised with consent of the President to oversee the security of local level voting.

Army presence can perhaps be credited for the few minor clashes and explosions that took place today. Incidents of explosion were reported in Kanchanpur, Dang, Baitadhi, Ilam and Bajura districts. However, nobody was injured. There were incidents of clashes between cadres of rival parties, but no report of casualties so far.

The National Human Rights Commission has concluded that the election remained largely peaceful barring few incidents of clashes and explosion, which caused no physical harm to voters and the polling all day long. The commission had deployed 3 high level monitoring team and 38 monitoring teams in all 35 districts. The commission, in its monitoring report, complained of lack of arrangement in part of the election commission for elderly, physically challenged and sick people. The commission has suggested reforms in election preparedness and polling centres.