Millions of Nepalese people on Wednesday voted in the second phase of the local-level polls which are being held after a gap of two decades — an election crucial for cementing democracy in the Himalayan nation.
The Joint Election Operation Centre at the Election Commission announced that around 62 per cent votes have been cast as of 4.30 PM (local time). In the first round of polls held on May 14, voter turn out was recorded at 71 per cent. The first phase of the local polls was held on May 14 in Provinces 3, 4 and 6.
The voting started peacefully at 7:00 AM for all the 334 positions. In ward number 9 of Rolpa Municipality of western Nepal, the voting was halted after a voter poured acid into a ballot box. According to police, the acid destroyed 10 ballot papers. Deputy Superintendent of Police Ram Prasad Gharti Magar said they are investigating the case.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba cast his vote at the Asigram Higher Secondary School, the polling station in Ruwakhola in Dadeldhura district of far-east Nepal. He said the local villagers were excited to participate as the second phase of local-level elections were held in peaceful, free and fair manner.
Deuba assured that the Constitution’s full-fledged implementation would take its course once the local government was established, and that the development works would move forward efficiently, rapidly and transparently. In a brief statement, Deuba said the elections were held so that the villages’ governments are established by the villagers themselves.
Meanwhile, Nepal media reported that at least three persons died, apparently due to natural causes, while casting their votes.
More than 6.4 million people are eligible voters in the 35 districts of Provinces 1, 5 and 7 that have gone to polls in the second phase of the local-level polls to elect more than 15,000 local representatives. Though the local polls were earlier scheduled for two phases, the second phase had to be postponed twice — and a third phase had to be declared — in a bid to accommodate the dissenting parties, including the Madhesis, that are yet to commit to the polls to be held in Province 2 on September 18.
All the political parties including the Madhesi parties are taking part in the elections. The Nepal government had earlier this month postponed the date of local-level elections in the disputed Madhesi-stronghold Province 2 by nearly three months, adding a third phase in the polls that will take place in September. The Rastriya Janta Party Nepal, the key Madhesi party, have fielded their candidates as independents in the election.
A total of 8,364 polling centres have been designated for today’s (Wednesday’s) voting, the Himalayan Times reported. In the first phase of polls, the voter turnout was estimated to be 74 per cent. The Election Commission said 62,408 candidates were contesting the second phase of elections. Votes will be cast secretly under the first-past-the-post electoral system on the basis of one post, one vote pattern. The Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday that the government had made fool-proof security arrangements to ensure that the second phase of local level elections took place in a free, fair and peaceful environment.