'We are fully prepared for holding first phase of local polls'

- Post Report, Kathmandu

May 13, 2017-Nepal is holding the local level elections after two decades. On the eve of Sunday's vote, Prithvi Man Shrestha talked to Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav about the preparations and how the Election Commission is handling security management and voter education.

Despite initial uncertainties, the country is finally geared for the local polls, first time in 20 years. What do you want to say to voters?

We are fully prepared for holding the local elections on Sunday. It is like both driver and passengers have already been seated on the bus and it is now the time to drive. 

The polling centres are being set up in all the places where the first phase of local elections is taking place. All the logistics--election materials, ballot boxes and ballot papers--have reached the polling centres. From polling officers to security personnel, all are at the polling centres. Election officers are doing their duties in consultation with the local political parties and other stakeholders. Voter identity card distribution and election education programme have been carried out from the polling centres side by side for three days. The EC is coordinating with the Central Security Committee. A practical security plan for the elections has been implemented to ensure that no untoward accident takes place during the elections. I would like to request voters, civil society, poll observers, media people, political parties and government officials to contribute to holding the local elections peacefully.

How is this local election different than others held in the past?

The local election is taking place in the country for the first time in 20 years. A large number people are casting their votes for the first time in their lives. More significantly, this election will ensure inclusive participation and representation of women and Dalits. We are also witnessing a significant participation of political parties and candidates. We had to increase the size of the ballot paper because of the number of parties participating in the elections.

People seem to be confused particularly over voting for open category ward members. What is the EC's assessment of effectiveness of the voter education prgramme?

There was not enough time for the EC to carry out an extensive voter education programme. However, we deployed volunteers to educate people about the voting process based in each polling centre. There will be 1,000 voters at a polling centre on an average. The volunteers have reached the doorstep of all the voters. Candidates and other stakeholders have also helped in the process.

Yes, we are aware of the questions raised over voter education. But the EC is confident that the voters have learned and are learning and they will vote correctly. Because of large ballot papers and relatively little time for voter education, the possibility of a higher proportion of invalid votes cannot be fully ruled out this time.

Cadres of the CPN led by Netra Bikram Chand have looted some election materials and are accused of planting bombs in different parts of the country. What security threat do they pose?

We are determined to hold the elections despite threat. They obviously threaten the elections but their activities are within control. A few incidents such as looting of election materials have taken place. We have immediately controlled such incidents and arranged for alternative supplies. The government's security mechanism is capable of mitigating any security threat from them. So people can trust the security arrangement for the polls. Elections will take place even in the areas where such incidents have been reported.

A few days ahead of the polls, a person lost his life in election-related violence in Dolakha. You expressed concern about it. What is the situation now?

The time for election related violence was taken over by the silence period. Since the Dolakha incident, we have not observed another major incident of violence. We have been strictly monitoring violation of the silence period which has been in effect since Thursday midnight.

The EC also sent a team to probe the Dolakha incident. What is the team's conclusion?

This is an incident the local administration should deal with but we also sent a separate team led by an election commissioner to probe the case. We will take an appropriate decision after the team presents its report. We have initiated a legal process about the incident. Voting will take place in Dolakha on schedule despite the incident.

How about implementation of the election code of conduct? There is concern about the EC being lenient on the matter.

You have heard from the prime minister and senior political leaders that the code of conduct is strict. Some might say it is ineffective. But this is a subjective issue. Adherence to the code this time has been better. Candidates and the parties seem to be following the code of conduct relatively better than in the past.

Published: 13-05-2017 21:10

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