Stamp of approval

Published On: June 28, 2017 12:45 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Second phase election 
It is a history day today. In the second phase of local election to be held across Provinces 1, 5 and 7, as many as 6.5 million people will cast their ballots. In the process, they will elect over 15,000 local representatives in 35 districts. This monumental exercise in local governance will be part of the process of meaningful devolution of powers envisioned by the new constitution. It is clear that there is tremendous public enthusiasm for the second phase, which has been quite evident both in the hills and plains alike. The first phase on May 14 saw a 71 percent voter turnout, and a comparable turnout is expected today. And if that is the case, it will be a ringing endorsement of the local polls which are being held in Nepal after a gap of two decades. Yes, there have been sporadic incidents of violence in the lead up to the June 28 vote, yet the campaigning and the ‘silent period’ has been by and large peaceful. Now that the all-important day is here, we would like to urge each and every eligible voter in the three provinces to fearlessly vote today. 

The second phase of voting for 334 local level units will have over 8,000 polling booths and will see the participation of nearly 67,000 civil servants, besides the security forces deployed for poll security. It’s a big endeavor any way you look at it. We hope that the Election Commission, which has not exactly covered itself in glory in the lead up to June 28, is up to the task. We also hope that the voter education drive it launched in the 35 districts that are voting today has had some impact and the kind of confusion seen among voters in during the first phase can be avoided. The commission will also have to ensure that the cast ballots are quickly and reliably counted this time, unlike during the first phase. It would have been wonderful if the protesting Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), as a party, had taken part in the second phase. But the candidacy of its leaders as independents will certainly add to the election’s legitimacy. This participation of RJPN leaders will also make for some intriguing contests, especially in the plain regions of Provinces 1 and 5.  

Yet today is not about the victory or loss of individual political parties or candidates. It’s about the revival of grassroots democracy after a gap of two decades. Today’s election, if it can be successfully held, will show that Nepali people are in favor of once and for all ending the protracted political transition, and thereby setting the country on the path of peace and prosperity with swift implementation of the new constitution. With elected local units in place, they will also be able to access the most vital public services like registry of marriages and deaths, citizenship papers, and free education and healthcare facilities not far from their homes. Perhaps the most important message from a successful second phase will be that the vast majority of Nepali people still have abiding faith in the power of elections to bring about meaningful social change.  


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