Tens of thousands of people voted peacefully Monday in a previously troubled southern Nepal province where ethnic violence demanding constitution changes had led to dozens of deaths in recent years. Police said there was no trouble during the voting in the No. 2 province, where security had been stepped up for the municipal and village council elections. The Madhesi ethnic group wants their provinces to have more territory than was assigned under the constitution adopted in 2015.
Articles about voting issues in the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.
Polls opened in Nepal on Monday (Sept 18) for the final phase of local polls, the first in nearly two decades and a key step in the country’s post-war transition to a federal democracy. Most of the country has already voted in the landmark polls, but the vote was repeatedly delayed in one province of Nepal’s southern plains, which was the epicentre of deadly ethnic protests two years ago. Protests kicked off after a new Constitution was passed in 2015 – nearly a decade after the end of the brutal Maoist insurgency – with ethnic minority groups saying the charter left them politically marginalised.
The government has proposed to introduce the weighted voting system to conduct elections of president and vice-president under the 2015 constitution. The Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs has already determined the weight of votes to be cast by members of the electoral college that comprises all lawmakers of both Houses of the federal Parliament as well as all provincial assemblies. The draft law has been sent to the Cabinet for further discussion before registering it in Parliament. Article 62 of the constitution states, “The President shall be elected by an electoral college composed of the members of the Federal Parliament and of the State Assemblies. The voting weight age of the members of the Federal Parliament and of the State Assemblies shall vary as provided for in the Federal law.”
The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have announced to provide an additional 1.6 million euros grant as part of their electoral assistance to Nepal to reinforce their cooperation with the Election Commission of Nepal. The grant will be used to provide needful electoral assistance to the EC through the UNDP-managed Electoral Support Project (ESP), according to a press statement issued jointly by UNDP and EU Office in Kathmandu on Wednesday.
Speakers at a programme here stressed for a provision wherein the Nepali migrant workers abroad could cast their ballots back home by any means. At an interaction programme themed on the voting rights of the migrant workers and organized by People Forum in the capital city, they also suggested the concerned authorities to consider the ways for the Nepali migrant workers off-shore to help them exercise their franchise in the next local level election to be held after five years. There are a total of 115 countries in the world having provisions for their fellow citizens in the foreign soil to vote, they shared recommending a system wherein the Nepali migrant workers could cast vote at Nepali diplomatic missions from the respective countries they work in.
Nepalis began voting in the second round of local elections on Wednesday, a key step towards holding a general election later this year that would complete a near decade-long democratic transition after the abolition of its monarchy. The latest round of voting covers parts of the restive southern plains that border India and there are concerns about possible violence after Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), a group that dominates the area, said it would boycott the vote and called for a general strike. In 2015 and 2016 scores of people were killed, mainly in clashes with police, in protests by the local ethnic Madhesi against a new constitution that they say leaves them marginalized and favors those living in the hills of the Himalayan nation.
The recently concluded first phase of local elections have pointed to a marked need for voter education. The Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) has recognised that it is urgent to educate voters to ensure free, fair and credible elections. Making potential voters and stakeholders aware of their voting rights, and getting them to cast their votes properly and confidently is a continuous process. Much effort has been made to convince people to go cast their votes, but little has been done to make sure that they mark the ballot paper correctly. Consequently, an unexpectedly large number of invalid votes were found even in metropolitan areas.
The Legislature-Parliament session today endorsed ‘Local-Level Election Act (first amendment) Bill- 2017’. The bill was passed by majority after going through clause-wise deliberations, accepting the proposal presented by Home Minister Janardan Sharma. Taking part in the clause-wise deliberations on the bill, lawmaker Prem Suwal said the act required to operate the local bodies, which, according to him, would help strengthen democracy was yet to be formulated. He demanded the government to come up with a bill towards that end.
Voting is regarded as a secret process however in case of visually-impaired in Nepal, it has been hardly so. With the second round of local elections just around the corner, many such voters in Jhapa are worried about the violation of their privacy. Despite having the right to vote, such people are not sure if their votes were cast to the candidate of their choice. Though they are allowed to take a companion with them while voting, some feel that they might have been betrayed by the companions. They doubt that their much trusted friends may take advantage of their blindness and vote for candidates of their preference instead of the voter.
On February 20 when the Pushpa Kamal Dahal led government announced local elections after a hiatus of nearly 20 years, the whole nation sprang up in joy. Like many others, locals of Khotang district too could not wait to exercise their voting rights in the polls originally scheduled for May 14. To their disappointment, the government then decided to hold polls in two phases – on May 14 and June 14, with Khotang also falling in the second phase. After severe objection from the Madhes-based parties, the government, on April 23, again postponed the polls date for the second round in an apparent bid to bring the agitating parties on board. According to the latest schedule the polls are now slated for June 28. But locals of Khotang are disappointed with the date as it falls during peak paddy plantation season.