LAHAN, Sept 20: With the Madhes based parties disgruntled over the lack of constitution amendment, local level election in some areas of Madhes faced delays. After intense discussions, election in Province 2 was finally agreed to be held on 18 September in the third phase.
Reports from the eight districts of Province 2 which includes Bara, Parsa, Rautahat and Mahottari districts among others indicates that people were eager for the elections. When the earlier dates for holding the elections were reshuffled, they seemed to have been anxious about it.
This part of Madhes was still waiting for election while other parts of the country had already received their local representatives. On Monday, the day finally came. It was difficult to speculate voters’ turn out though the Election Commission had predicted that it would be overwhelming. Just like the commission estimated, people’s participation exhibited remarkable desperation for polls.
According to the commission, the election took place in a very peaceful manner with 73 percent participation. Voters included even elderly people aged over 90. The election was held to elect representatives for 136 local bodies in eight districts.
In the beginning, controversy and doubt over holding election was the talk of the town in Madhes. When it looked likely, people got gripped by election fever. Now, post election, the hang over remains and the thrill now is about the massive participation. Both locals and the Election Commission have taken it as a remarkable happening.
“It is very much noticeable because election looked least likely here in the beginning. Though the dates were postponed again and again, the participation was overwhelming on Monday,” said political analyst Tul Narayan Sah. “The participation percentage was slightly affected because of the absence of voters working abroad,” he added.
Madhes had been restless for long time. When the constitution was promulgated, it was engulfed by demonstration which resulted in the death of several people. However, the massive participation of voters in the local election has amazed some.
Sah says that general public did not have reservation against election. It was basically political parties who had their own agenda to address and therefore were using election as a bargaining chip. Since people were always in favor of holding election, they simply participated in it, he said.
“Apparently it looks incredible that even the areas that were turned into war zones during earlier demonstrations saw huge participation. This ascertains the argument that the general public was always in favor of holding the election. They wanted local bodies intact and functioning,” he stated. He added that in lack of local representatives, people in Madhes were facing trouble just like people in other parts of the country.
“Local level poll was long overdue. When election was announced, people here were also very excited. It was only that they had to wait longer due to political complexities,” Sah narrated.
According to analysts of Madhes politics, the voters were mostly women and elders. Had there been all youths at home, the voters turn out would be over 90 percent. “It was happening after 20 years. And it would have been taken even more valuably by youths. But most of them are working abroad,” Sah said.
The local level election is the first ever election in the country held after the local level restructuring. There are some practical challenges ahead, Sah said.
“It is a huge milestone towards strengthening democracy. We now have fully functional local level bodies with newly elected representatives. But there are some confusions in the function of these bodies and there are certainly some challenges that the new representatives will have to face and solve in the days ahead,” he noted. “What we must be happy about is the success of the election across the country. We are seeing a real love for democracy,” Sah said.
According to another political analyst from Madhes, Dr Rajesh Ahiraj, the elections were held successfully as the government took necessary steps for addressing the demand of Madhes. This included holding voting in the parliament, which even though was not supported by majority of the Member of the Parliament was taken positively by the general public and Madhes based parties, he said.
“That made the environment for the poll conducive. Madhes was indeed desperate for local polls like other parts of the country and massive participation is indicative of that,” he said.