Winds of change as country is geared to voteA total of 11,543 candidates, including those for first-past-the-post and proportional representation categories of the House and provincial assembly elections, are in the fray.
Preparations are over for the polls on Sunday that will elect the House of Representatives and seven provincial assemblies.
The political, logistical and security arrangements have been made to hold the elections in the 165 federal constituencies and for the 330 provincial seats in total. Separate ballots have been arranged for proportional representation elections to the federal parliament and the seven assemblies.
All the necessary preparations for free, fair and fearless polls have been completed, said Dinesh Thapaliya, the chief election commissioner, on Saturday. “The election is happening on the basis of people’s competitive democratic governance system, people’s sovereignty, their independence, fundamental rights and adult franchise ensured by the federal, democratic constitution.”
Thapaliya appealed to all voters to exercise their right on Sunday by visiting their respective polling centres without fear.
For every federal constituency, there are two provincial seats. There are separate ballot boxes for 330 first-past-the-post provincial seats while 220 candidates are elected through proportional representation to the seven provincial assemblies. A total 10,892 polling stations and 22,227 polling centres have been established besides 141 temporary booths for civil servants, security personnel, prisoners and people living in old-age homes to vote. Approximately 300,000 security personnel, including from Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and the National Intelligence Department, will be deployed during the elections. They are assisted by 115,000 temporary police recruits, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The periodic election is taking place after completion of the legislature’s full term despite former prime minister KP Sharma Oli attempting twice to dissolve the House.
Voter turnout is expected to be good with the country emerging out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and leaders from major political parties including UML Chairman Oli and CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal issued separate statements appealing to all voters to exercise their constitutional right and make this democratic exercise successful.
“Technically, I do not see any problems for holding free, fair and transparent elections with returning officers, security arrangements, polling centres and materials already in place,” said former chief election commissioner Bhojraj Pokharel. “Problems could only be seen in the northern part of the country due to inclement weather.”
On possible security threats to the polls, Pokharel said the forces that have announced to boycott the election would not inflict much harm this time.
“On the security front, I think there is no serious threat this time as very few outfits have announced to boycott the election,” said Pokharel. “There could be re-polling at some places, if party cadres get involved in brawls, but that won’t be a serious issue.”
Observers hope polling would largely be peaceful throughout the country, barring the possibility of some minor incidents. “As per my observation in different parts of Kathmandu, both election officials and security forces seem confident that the polls will be peaceful,” said Prof Kapil Shrestha, an election observer and chair of the National Election Observation Committee. “This shows that Nepal’s democracy has headed towards consolidation, irreversibly.”
Thapaliya, the chief election commissioner, has already directed election officers and those deployed to conduct the polls, security officers, monitors, observers and representatives to take legal action against those disrupting the polls in any way.
After the final results are out, there will be an entirely new political set-up in the country—a new president, vice president, speaker, deputy speaker, prime minister and a new Cabinet in Kathmandu. There will also be seven new chief ministers and their Cabinets in the seven provinces. A total of 825 representatives will be elected to the House and provincial assemblies after the vote.
The former commissioner, Pokharel sees a new equation in the House due to alliance politics, emergence of new political parties and some independent candidates. The proportional representation seats are expected to be divided among more parties this time.
Watchers of Nepal’s electoral process for long say that voters, political parties and the candidates seem to have mature strategies this time.
“We saw very few pre-election clashes among the cadres of political parties. Extravagant publicity has significantly come down,'' said Pokharel.
A total of 11,543, including both first-past-the-post and proportional representation candidates for the House of Representatives and provincial assemblies are in the fray, according to the Election Commission.
According to the commission, a total of 2,412 candidates are contesting the House seats under the FPTP system. Among them, 2,187 are male and 225 female. For the 110 proportional representation seats, there are a total of 2,199 candidates—1,187 female and 1,012 male.
A total of 3,224 candidates, including 280 women and one other, are contesting the 330 provincial seats under the FPTP system. For the 220 proportional representation seats up for grabs, 3,708 candidates (including 1,511 women) are in the fray.
As the constitution provisions a mixed electoral system, 60 percent candidates are elected directly while 40 percent are chosen for proportional representation (PR) from closed lists of candidates submitted by the parties beforehand. Each voter casts four ballots to elect them—one each for the FPTP and PR candidates for the federal and provincial elections.
After polling closes on Sunday evening, sealed ballot boxes are sent to the district headquarters or the relevant returning officers, who later declare where and how the counting shall begin.