Stage all set for local elections in Province 2

  • No violent clashes reported in run-up to vote: Officials
- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Sep 17, 2017-The stage has been set for local elections in Province 2, which will conclude the local level polls, the first in the country in two decades. Though there were concerns about possible clashes in the run-up to the polls, no violent incident was reported during campaigns, which officials and polls observers said “is good news”.

Apprehensions were rife among the general public as well as political parties about scuffles and disturbances, given the chain of events witnessed in the past months, especially after the government declared local polls.

Though local elections were initially announced in a single phase on May 14, they had to be staggered over three rounds, largely due to the demands of some Madhes-based parties and possibility of violent clashes.

The eight districts of Province 2, where voting will take place on Monday, were even categorised as the “most sensitive” from the security point of view. The Election Commission, government officials and poll observers said there were no reports of violent clashes. 

Saptari is one of the eight districts in Province 2. In Maleth of the district, at least six people had died when security forces opened fire on protesters during an election rally of the CPN-UML 

in March, two months before the first phase of local elections was held in Provinces 3, 4 and 6.

They said that the decision of the agitating Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N), a unified force of six Madhes-based parties, to participate in the polls played a major role in bringing calm in the region. 

“We did not receive any report of violent clashes during election campaigns in Province 2,” said Gopal Siwakati, general secretary of the National Election Observation Committee.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) also confirmed that there were no reports of violent clashes in the region. Improved political environment following the RJP-N’s decision to participate in the polls, local administration’s efforts to prevent overlapping of campaigns and stepped up security measures helped avoid clashes in the region, said Ram Krishna Subedi, spokesperson for MoHA, confirming that not even a single incident of violent clash was reported from the region. 

Officials said they were taken by surprise, but were “very happy”, by the unprecedented calm in the region, as there were scuffles, some violent, in the run-up to the previous rounds on May 14 and June 28. During the first phase of local elections, there were 28 incidents of clashes between the parties, according to the poll body. In the second phase of local elections, there were 25 clashes, mainly between cadres of three major parties—Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre).

Observers said the government’s move of concentrating security forces in large numbers in one province, unlike in the previous two phases, also was helpful in maintaining peace. However, some sections have voiced against “massive deployment of security forces.” The government has mobilised over 60,000 security personnel in the region for the Monday’s polls. 

The EC was also concerned about possible “politics of negation” during the campaigns. The UML in Province 2 was often portrayed as an anti-Madhes party for its objection to constitution amendment, a key demand of the Madhes-based parties. Hence there were fears there could be clashes between the UML and Madhes-based parties, said observers. “Political parties ran their elections freely,” said Election Commissioner Narendra Dahal. 

EC officials and observers hope there won’t be any incident of clashes now as silence period has already taken effect in the “volatile region” where calm has returned after the storm. 

 

by the Numbers

local units (136)                             Registered voters: 2,664,950

Metropolis : 1                                 Districts: 8

Sub-metropolitan cities : 3             Polling centres: 3,578

Municipalities : 73

Rural Municipalities : 59

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Published: 17-09-2017 06:40

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