KATHMANDU, June 27: Following the Bharatpur ballot-tearing incident, the Election Commission (EC) has instructed polling officers and security agencies to adopt all available measures to keep ballot papers safe during the vote counting.
Election commissioners, during field visits to the districts, instructed election officers and security chiefs to stay alert and prevent any further ballot tearing incident. They have also instructed the districts where they could not manage to visit to properly safeguard the ballot papers.
After holding a series of discussions with the security chiefs and poll officers in the districts, the election commissioners instructed the poll officers to place police personnel between party representatives and ballot papers during the vote count. "They have been told to maintain a distance between ballot papers and party representatives so that none of the latter will be able to take the ballots under control or even touch them," said Election Commissioner Narendra Dahal.
The election law bars party agents from touching the ballots. But representatives appointed by Renu Dahal, the CPN (Maoist Center) mayoral candidate in Bharatpur, managed to tear up the ballots when the vote counting was about to be completed
"Vote counting centers will now be arranged in such a way that party representatives can only observe the condition of the ballots but won't be able to touch them," said Commissioner Dahal.
The election body has suggested to its subordinate bodies not to allow unauthorized party representatives into the vote counting centers and also to reduce their numbers as much as they can.
Poll observes are also to be asked to seek a commitment from candidates and their representatives not to cause any damage to the ballot papers during vote counting. Poll officers have been asked to get the party representatives to sign an agreement to keep the ballots safe.
Army personnel will transport the ballot boxes from polling centers to the local units headquarters to forestall any untoward incidents along the way. .
Following the Bharatpur incident, election commissioners and poll officers are worried that parties that look like they are going to loose in the second round of elections will resort to tearing up the ballot papers instead of respecting the peoples' verdict.
Ballots were tore in Bharatpur by Maoist party representatives when CPN-UML mayoral candidate Devi Gyawali was leading the vote count by 733 votes.
The Maoist party representatives have been accused of tearing the ballots after calculating that they were not going to win. The election law has a provision for conducting a re-election if ballots are captured or destroyed during the vote counting.
Citing the election law, the EC has decided to conduct a re-election in Bharatpur Ward No. 19. The UML candidates have challenged the move in court. The case is now at the Supreme Court.
-Maintain a distance between party representatives and ballot papers
-Police to be placed between party representatives and ballots
-Limited number of party representatives to get access to vote counting centers
-Poll officers asked to get party representatives sign an agreement to keep the ballot papers safe