Kathmandu, March 27, 2017: As part of the preparations for conducting local elections within the slated date of May 14, the Election Commission (EC) has printed the ballot papers for 36 out of the 75 districts so far. The election body plans to complete printing the remaining ballots by April 18.
Ballot papers are being printed at the tightly-guarded Janak Shikshya Samagri Kendra (JSSK), the state-owned press, in Bhaktapur district. “Till now, we have printed the ballot papers for 36 districts. We are on track in terms of the logistics for the elections,” said Election Commissioner Narendra Dahal.
Asked whether there was any chance of the election body reconsidering its plan to conduct the elections across the country at the same time in view of the opposition by the agitating Madhes-centric parties, Commissioner Dahal ruled out any possibility of backtracking from elections in Province 2. He said the ballot papers for Province 2 would also be printed soon.
Province 2 includes Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari and Sarlahi districts. These districts are said to be sensitive in terms of elections as some political parties based in the region have been demanding that the constitution amendment bill should be endorsed and the number of local units increased before the elections take place.
Election officials, however, have become encouraged of late after the political parties in Bara and Parsa came up with their recommendations to the EC on polling stations. The EC is in the process of reviewing the previous voting centers. “We have also received responses from Bara and Parsa. Let’s hope the remaining districts will likewise come up with their reports on where to fix the polling stations,” said EC Spokesperson Surya Prasad Sharma.
Commissioner Dahal informed that the JSSK has so far been printing the ballot papers of districts with fewer parties competing and it would print ballot papers for the tarai districts also soon. “We are printing ballot papers for the Madhes districts soon,” said Dahal.
As of Sunday, the EC has received report from 67 districts setting out the polling stations.
Based on the recommendations on polling stations from local political parties, the EC has been finalizing the ballot paper designs. The EC plans to begin work on voter ID cards immediately after the process of voter roll verification is completed.
People who had obtained their voter ID cards in the 2013 Constituent Assembly (CA) elections will get ID cards for the upcoming local elections as well. Encouraged by the efficacy of voter IDs in making recent elections more credible, the EC is distributing 14 million voter IDs this time.
The commission has already awarded a private firm the contract for printing the IDs. The firm has installed printing machines within the EC premises. “They [the firm] will begin to print the voter IDs soon after the voter rolls are finalized,” said Dahal.
Nepal adopted voter IDs for the first time in the 2013 CA elections . The ID cards were largely successful in preventing duplication and overlapping of voters and making the elections more credible compared to previous elections. Over 17.7 million voters were registered with the EC in the 2008 CA elections and this number was reduced to 12.1 million in 2013 after the EC began voter registrations with photos and fingerprints and voter IDs were distributed on the basis of digital registration.
The ID card prevents fraud and duplication in elections, according to experts. Encouraged by the use of voter IDs, election officials have introduced the voter ID provision in election law.
By Bhadra Sharma