Invalid votes make voter education a must in Province 2

  • Over 6pc of votes in 2 CA polls in 8 districts were invalid

Apr 23, 2017-Invalid votes in most of the Tarai districts, particularly in the eight districts of Province 2, remained higher compared to the Hill districts during the two Constituent Assembly elections held in 2008 and 2013, showing the need for an effective voter education drive ahead of the local elections scheduled for May 14.

Under the first-past-the-post system in the second CA elections, none of electoral constituencies in the Hill districts except for Baitadi-2 (7.74 percent) saw invalid votes over seven percent.

There are very few electoral constituencies in the Hill districts where the percentage of invalid votes remained higher than 6 percent in 2013. But in the districts of Province 2, over 6 percent invalid votes was common. 

Most of the constituencies in some districts saw more than 7 percent invalid votes, according to the Election Commission. Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Bara and Parsa are the districts of Province 2.

Of the 48 electoral constituencies in the eight districts, 17 had over 6 percent invalid votes in the second CA polls with Saptari-1 recording the highest percentage at 7.89.

Yet, the percentage of invalid votes in these districts had decreased in 2013 compared to the first CA elections of 2008 when a lot of electoral constituencies in the province had recorded over nine percent invalid votes.

In the 2008 elections, 40 electoral constituencies had invalid votes of more than 6 percent. Over 7 percent invalid votes were common, with Saptari-1 and Saptari-5 having invalid votes of 9.22 percent and 9.21 percent, respectively.

The higher percentage of invalid votes in the districts shows the effectiveness level of the voter education, said Dolakh Bahadur Gurung, former election commissioner. “There was a higher percentage of invalid votes in 2008 because voter education could not be delivered effectively as the polls took place right after the Madhes movement.”

He said that the situation improved in 2013 due to a relatively better election education in the region. The eight plains districts are the ones which have one of the lowest literacy rates in the country. Mahottari has the literacy rate as low as 46 percent, according to Census 2011. Women’s literacy ranges from 32.3 percent in Rautahat to 44.1 percent in Parsa.

The literacy rate in Province 2 is comparable to the impoverished districts of the Karnali region including Dolpa, Jumla, Kalikot and Humla where the literacy rate ranges from 48.7 percent to 58 percent. 

Despite the low literacy rate in these Mountain districts, the percentage of invalid votes in the region ranged from 1.81 percent to 4.75 percent in the latest vote.

Former commissioner Gurung said the low literacy rate does not make much of a difference in invalid votes as does voter education. “The number of political parties competing in the Tarai districts was higher compared to the Hill districts. This might have also confused voters,” he said.

EC record shows that the percentage of invalid votes in other Tarai districts including Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari was higher in both the CA polls.

Given the time constraints for voter education for the EC ahead of the local level polls, there is fear that the percentage of invalid votes could go up. Furthermore, the possibility of obstruction by the agitating Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha of the campaign, particularly in the Tarai, could complicate the situation.

Election Commissioner Narendra Dahal said the EC has no special campaign only for Province 2. “Our volunteers have started campaigns in all the districts. Publicity materials have been prepared in 16 languages,” he said. The election authority has deployed around 21,000 volunteers for the purpose.

Published: 23-04-2017 07:48

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