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Polling in the rain

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
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Women line up in the Asigram booth in Dadeldhura district on Wednesday, where Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba also cast his vote. Pic: RSS

Voters turned out in large numbers in the second phase of local elections on Wednesday, braving monsoon downpours and some threats of violence.

Even in the Tarai districts where the Madhes-based RJPN boycotted elections, voters lined up from early morning to cast their votes. Voters were seen crossing swollen rivers to reach polling stations.

An early estimate is that the voter turnout could be more than 70%, and two RJPN leaders admitted that their party’s call for boycott has been rejected by the people.

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RJPN leader Sarbendra Nath Shukla did not cast his vote, but visited booths in his constituency in Rupandehi district and said he found “people enthusiastic to elect local representatives”.

RJPN General Secretary Brij Kumar Gupta said he was disappointed that his party did not allow him to openly support and vote for candidates. Both leaders agreed that the RJPN has made a mistake by boycotting elections, and should not repeat it in the third phase.

After the first phase in Provinces 3, 4 and 6 on 14 May, the second phase was held on Wednesday in Provinces 1, 5 and 7. Only Province 2, which is believed to be a stronghold of the RJPN, will go to the polls on 18 September in the third phase.

The second phase was relatively peaceful with reports of minor clashes and obstruction coming in only from a few places. Improvised explosive devices were found outside a couple of booths, but were quickly disposed by army squads.

In Tulasipur of Dang, Head Constable Durga Bahadur Rana saved voters by throwing away a bomb immediately after it landed inside the polling station. Sub Inspector Gopal Sharma told Nepali Times that they could not see who hurled the bomb as the polling place was covered with mist.

In two villages in Solukhumbu and Nawalparasi district, some people abstained from voting saying they were not happy with the way the boundaries of local village and municipalities had been drawn up.

In Thabang in Rolpa district, the epicentre of the Maoist war, people voted enthusiastically for the first time since 2008. They had collectively boycotted the second Constituent Assembly elections in 2013.

Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar and Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara who fought the war against the state in Rolpa district returned home to cast their ballots. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was also in his home district of Dadeldhura, and cast his vote from the Asigram polling station.

The second phase of polls was held for 334 self-governing municipal and village councils in 35 districts, including 11 in the Tarai. For six million voters, 8,364 polling stations had been set up.

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