People vote in Province 2 with fervour

  • EC’s early estimates put voter turnout at 73 percent
- Post District Bureau, Kathmandu

Sep 19, 2017-Voting in the eight districts of Province 2 on Monday concluded the third and last phase of local elections, the first in two decades, ensuring local governments across the country after a hiatus of more than a decade and a half. 

Voting across the province, which was previously troubled by protests against some provisions of the constitution, on Monday, just a day before the country celebrates the second anniversary of the charter, was largely peaceful, with the protesting Madhes-based parties also taking part in the polls. 

Some sporadic incidents of violence were reported but they did not affect polling, officials said. 

In Sarlahi, an unidentified group detonated an explosive  device in Hariaun Municipality-1. The incident took place just when ballot boxes from the polling centre of Bilandi Basic School were being brought to a vote counting centre. “All the ballot boxes are safe,” said polling officer Shankar Prasad Dev. A voter standing in line was injured when some people hurled stones at Motipur polling centre in Kaudena Rural Municipality in the district. 

In Siraha, police detained 18 people from various parts of the district for trying to cast proxy votes. 

After casting his vote from Rajbiraj-2 in Saptari, Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav said, “These local elections are a historic opportunity for the people of the Tarai-Madhes region”. “Enthusiastic participation of the people in the elections despite suffering from recent floods and inundation has contributed to strengthening democracy and people’s rights,” he said. 

Leaders of various political parties also cast their votes in their home districts. 

Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) leader Rajendra Mahato cast his vote at Babargunj polling centre in Sarlahi. CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal cast his vote from Ram Janaki Kanya Primary School in Gaur, Rautahat while Nepali Congress leader Bimalendra Nidhi exercised his franchise in Nagarain Municipality-2 in Dhanusha. RJP-N Coordinator Mahantha Thakur, who had returned to Kathmandu on Sunday after falling ill, could not cast his vote. He is a voter from Malangwa Municipality-8, Sarlahi.

The Election Commission said its early estimates showed 73 percent voter turnout. As many as 1,920,372 people participated in the elections in Province 2 where the number of registered voters is 2,664,950, said the EC. In the first phase of local polls, voter turnout was 74 percent, which increased to 76 percent in the second phase, according to the EC. 

According to the election body, elections could not be held in two polling centres of Ward 15 of Rajbiraj Municipality due to the death of an RJP candidate for the post of ward chairperson on Saturday. 

Thought the government in February had announced local elections across the country in a single phase, they had to be staggered over three phases, largely due to protests by the Madhes-based parties, which were demanding an amendment to the constitution. The first and second rounds of polls were held on May 14 and June 28 in Provinces 3, 4 and 6 and Province 1, 5 and 7, respectively, in which the RJP-N did not participate. 

A constitution amendment bill, however, failed in Parliament on August 21. The RJP-N, a unified force of six Madhes-based parties which had been pressing for charter amendment, then decided to participate in Monday’s polls. But the party has said its agendas are still alive and that it will continue to fight for “ensuring the rights of the Madhesi people”, as it believes the constitution adopted in September 2015 marginalises some sections of the society.

More than 50 people had died in protests along the plains, including in Province 2, against the constitution. Security was stepped up in the region, with around 68,000 cops deployed for the Monday’s polls.

The region was then hugely affected by floods and inundations in mid-August. As many as 160 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of houses were destroyed by one of the worst water-induced disasters in 15 years. 

The conclusion of local elections is a key step towards institutionalising federalism in the country which will hold federal and provincial polls on November 26 and December 7 to conclude the long-drawn transition since the end of a decade-long civil war that more than 16,000 people dead.

(With inputs from our district correspondents)

Published: 19-09-2017 07:43

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