July 2, 2017 12:45 AM NPT
Vote counting process
After much criticism of the painfully slow vote-counting process following the first round of local election, the Election Commission had promised to rev things up for the second round. But that plainly is not the case. Despite more people being deployed as vote-counters, the counting is arguably as slow as it was after the first round. Yet not all the blame can be placed on the commission. For instance, in Biratnagar metropolis, vote-counting could not start even after 24 hours of the end of second round voting. First the political parties started quarrelling about the right number of commission officials who should be present at the counting station. When that dispute was finally settled, the center was then plunged into darkness as electricity abruptly went away. Similarly, in Urlabari municipality of Morang, counting was halted when vote counters could not agree on the criteria for declaration of invalid votes. In many other big and small constituencies, too, counting has been halted, mostly due to disputes between the major contenders in the contest. In other places, candidates who lost with thin margins are demanding recounts.
All in all, it’s a veritable mess. The endlessly squabbling political parties are certainly to be blamed for the slow count. But most of the blame has to be directed at the commission. It could have done many things to facilitate counting. Take the statistics on vote counting that is coming out in popular media. Every news website has a different number of votes ascribed to particular candidates. This would not be the case if the commission had a one-window policy on dissemination of information on vote-counting, and there would be far less confusion as a result. But that perhaps is too much to ask of a commission that has not even been able to share with journalists data on number of men and women candidates for the second round. And it’s ridiculous that in this day and age counting has to stop because of power outage. The commission has got even the basics wrong. For instance there does not seem to be fixed criteria to declare ballot papers invalid, absence of which has sparked disputes in many close contests. All these incidents have put a question mark over the commission’s preparations and even its intent.
Both our political parties and the Election Commission need to mature as institutions.
Our political parties need the maturity to accept defeat gracefully. The commission officials for their part need to be mature enough to be able to give credible explanations for their shortcomings. Right now, many questions have been raised about the commission’s workings but it has been able to come up with few good answers. It is almost as if its officials know they are in the wrong but are reluctant to accept their mistake. For if there is honest acceptance, they will have to improve. Delayed results undercut the legitimacy of elections and by extension the legitimacy of the democratic process itself. On recent evidence our electoral system is in need of a thorough revision.