Nation holds local polls in 20 yrs

May 15, 2017

The Kathmandu Post, Prithvi Man Shrestha, 15th May 2017, Kathmandu

The first phase of local elections was held successfully across three provinces on Sunday as the country voted to elect people’s representatives to the local governments after two decades.

Early estimates of the Election Commission put the voter turnout at over 73 percent. Voter turnout during the two Constituent Assembly elections in 2008 and 2013 was 59 and 78 percent, respectively.

Except for sporadic incidents of violence, Sunday’s vote was “peaceful and enthusiastic with a massive level of voter participation,” the EC said in a statement on Sunday evening. Elderly people, people with disability and those mourning the deaths of their family members also cast their vote.

Elections were held in 281 local units of 34 districts in provinces 3, 4 and 6.

According to the poll authority, voter turnout was the highest at 82 percent in Rasuwa district. Bhaktapur, Gorkha and Dolpa are the other districts where the percentage of the ballots cast was over 80 percent.

Ramechhap saw the lowest participation of voters but no other district had less than 60 percent turnout, according to the EC.

“The EC is confident that this participation of people in the first phase of elections will encourage voters for the second phase of local polls,” said Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav. Election will take place in the local federal units of 41 districts in provinces 1, 2, 5 and 7 on June 14.

There were a total of 4,956,925 registered voters for Sunday’s election, out of the 14,054,482 eligible voters across the country.

According to election officials, violent incidents forced the EC to postpone the vote in three polling centres. Election has been postponed at the polling centre in Namobuddha Municipality-4 of Kavrepalanchok district, the Balachaur School-based polling centre at Kalika Village Council of Kalikot district and the Satyaswori Secondary School-based polling centre at Melung Village Council in Dolakha district.

The commission said a person was killed in police firing at Melung when the authorities intervened when a group of people vandalised the polling booth and attempted to loot ballot papers and boxes. The date for polling has yet to be fixed.

Ballot boxes are being brought to the offices of chief election officers and election officers. They will decide when to begin counting votes in consultation with the parties. “Counting can begin on Sunday night or Monday morning,” said CEC Yadav.

Amid the possibility of a high percentage of invalid votes due to inadequate voter education, the EC said they are otherwise happy with the preparations.

Former CEC Neel Kantha Upreti said the commission deserves praise for the successful polls. He, however, stressed that more time should be allotted for voter education programme in the second phase.